Archive for June 2012

My daughter Emilie is not a thing

26 June 2012

On 10 December 2011 my wife Shijima Hirasawa (平澤しじま) got drunk and violent. She started beating me even while I was holding our daughter Emilie. Now because I was twice as heavy as my wife I wasn’t worried that she would hurt me, but she was completely out of control and I was worried that she could hurt our daughter or herself.

So I called her sister, Akitsu Tajiri (田尻秋津) and then called the police when talking to her sister didn’t work. This is the police report, in Japanese.

The police arrived and tried to calm down Shijima, who went back and forth between crying helplessly and throwing up. Akitsu finally arrived. We cleaned Shijima up and the mess she made, the police left.

Akitsu felt it was best to take Shijima with her. She also took Emilie because she said Shijima would panic if she didn’t find Emilie with her when she woke up the next morning. Akitsu is very charming and manipulative, and she easily seduces people to her point of view. So I agreed, one of the few things I regret about my actions.

Basically this event defines the relationship between my ex-wife and my daughter. Shijima was obsessed with getting pregnant. For her, Emilie is an achievement, a prize. She’s more like medecine and a comfort than she is like a baby. For Shijima, Emilie is her pet. Emilie is a thing. A precious thing perhaps, but a thing nonetheless.

My daughter Emilie is not a pet, she’s not a thing.

As the British novelist Terry Pratchett wrote, sin starts when you treat people like things. Sin can become many things, but that’s where it starts. Well, I’ve got news for my ex-wife: our daughter was not brought into this world to make her mother feel better. She’s not medecine for Shijima’s personal problems. As with anyone, the purpose of Emilie’s life is her own happiness.

Parental rights are not rights over our children as if they were our property. Parents have duties to see their children are educated and are given a chance to make their own happiness. Parental rights are rights on choosing how to discharge our duties as parents. Shijima Hirasawa has deprived her daughter of her father. She is unfit to be a mother. In Japan, unfortunately, she is not alone.



Japanese people don’t know about their own family law

22 June 2012

Yesterday I has an enlightening conversation with my neighbor, Mrs. Ichikawa. She’s a very nice rather handsome woman in her late fifties or early sixties. She lives in a two dwelling home. She lives downstairs with her husband, and her daughter lives upstairs with her husband and their two children, a six year old boy and a two-month old baby girl.

Anyway,  I announced to Mrs. Ichikawa that I was leaving Japan, I explained my situation: no work for four years following the Lehman Shock, my divorce, and the fact that I would not be able to see my daughter for many years. I explained to her about Japanese family law and everything I said seemed new to her.

Now she is not a silly old woman. She’s a solid middle class housewife, she swims at the local pool twice a week, she takes good care of her plants, she’s a friendly neighbor, she does some community work. She and her husband own the house, a nice SUV and the whole family goes on weekend trips once in a while.

And yet she has no knowledge about family law. I illustrated what happened to me by telling her to imagine what would happen if her son-in-law took his two children to visit his parents one day and suddenly announced he wasn’t coming back. I was careful not to worry about this, but I explained that in 10% of the cases, it is the husband who abducts the children first, and in 90% of the cases it is the wife. I also insisted that this is not an international problem, it’s a domestic Japanese problem.

How can she not know?

I don’t like expounding gratuitous theories about the Japanese but there must be a reason why this solid middle-class woman knows nothing about the problem. I doubt she is alone; in fact I’m convinced she is typical.

There is probably no debate about it, fathers who lose there children are told to just get on with their lives and concentrate on work, while mothers who lose their children are probably thought of as bad mothers.

I have seen a report on the local news about “New Dads”. Fathers that spend a lot of time with their kids, fathers who play with them, change diapers, carry them when the whole family goes shopping, etc. This is new in Japan. It’s not that Japanese fathers were macho, it’s that they spend 80 hours a week at the office. Many younger fathers actually make a decision to come home early for the kids.

Since divorce is on the rise what will happen to those New Dads who get divorced?

An open letter to Canada’s minister for foreign affairs

20 June 2012

The Honourable John Baird, P.C., M.P. 
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa (Ontario)
K1A 0A6

Dear Minister

Japan must sign without delay the Hague convention on repatriating children abducted from their normal country of residence.

In today’s world, diplomatic relations among countries prioritize economic and trade issues. Certainly, it is through healthy economies and fruitful trade that we can achieve material well-being, a necessary ingredient of happiness. But economic interests and markets have moral limits. Government not only manages tax money and industrial policy for the common good, government is also the guardian of our human rights. Those concerns must always trump other priorities, including economic and trade issues.

Japan and Canada have a good happy relationship. Japan is one of the great countries of the world, an economic giant, a peaceful land with many social and human advantages we should all envy.

However, Japan kidnaps Canadian children and children from all over the world.

As I understand it, the consuls at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo are devoting more time and energy to this issue than to any other. I appreciate their hard work and I am grateful. However they are civil servants and they cannot take action at their own discretion. It is time for the elected leaders of Canada to send a message to Japan on this issue.

I ask the following until Japan signs the Hague convention.

  • That the Canadian ambassador to Japan be immediately recalled.
  • That Japan’s ambassador to Ottawa be asked to immediately leave Canada.
  • That Canada lead the world on this issue by asking other countries to do the same.

Japan has been promising to sign the Hague convention for many years and Japan always finds a good excuse on why they can’t sign this year, whatever the year is. This is because Japan has no intention of signing the convention. Japanese people abduct each other’s children all the time. Even a former prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, has done this. Their excuse is that this is the Japanese way of things, this is Japanese custom, and this is Japanese law.

It might seem I am asking for an extreme action. Not so. The Japanese are masters at the art of diplomacy and politics; they trump all of us, they are better than we are at negotiation and delay. They are master poker players. It’s time we stop playing poker with our children’s lives and tell Japan that, on this issue, enough is enough. Normal diplomacy is not working, so it’s time to shame Japan into doing the right thing.

Yours sincerely,
Vincent Poirier

Copies sent to José Nunez-Melo (M.P., Laval), La Presse, Le Devoir, Le Journal De Montréal, The Montreal Gazette, The Globe And Mail, The Japan Times, and The Daily Yomiuri


In French


L’honorable John Baird, C.P.,député
Ministre des Affaires étrangères
Chambre des communes
Ottawa (Ontario)
K1A 0A6

Monsieur le Ministre,

Le Japon doit signer sans plus tarder la convention de la Haye sur le rapatriement des enfants enlevés de leur pays normal de résidence.

Aujourd’hui, les relations diplomatiques mettent l’accent sur l’économie et les échanges commerciaux. C’est bien sûr par le biais d’une économie en santé et des échanges commerciaux fructueux que nous pouvons réaliser le bien-être matériel nécessaire au bonheur de tout le monde. Mais les activités économiques et commerciales sont limitées sur le plan moral. Non seulement le gouvernement administre l’argent des taxes et la politique industrielle pour le bien commun, le gouvernement est aussi le gardien de nos droits humains. Ces responsabilités ont la priorité sur toutes les autres, commerciales et industrielles inclues.

Le Japon et le Canada bénéficient d’une relation harmonieuse. Le Japon est un des grands pays du monde, un géant économique, une patrie paisible comportant de nombreux avantages sociaux et humains que nous devrions tous envier.

Par contre, le Japon enlève à leurs parents des enfants canadiens et des enfants du monde entier.

Je comprends que les consuls de l’ambassade canadienne à Tokyo dévouent plus de temps et d’efforts à cette cause qu’à toute autre cause non commerciale. J’apprécie leurs efforts et je leur en suis reconnaissant. Mais ce sont des fonctionnaires et ils n’ont pas l’autorité d’agir à leur gré. Il est temps que les leaders élus du Canada envoient au Japon un message clair à ce sujet.

Je vous demande ce qui suit, jusqu’à ce que le Japon signe la convention de la Haye.

  • Que le gouvernement canadien rappelle immédiatement l’ambassadeur canadien à Tokyo.
  • Que l’ambassadeur du Japon à Ottawa soit requis de quitter le Canada immédiatement.
  • Que le Canada donne l’exemple à ce sujet et qu’il demande à d’autres pays d’en faire autant.

Le Japon promet depuis plusieurs années de signer la convention mais il trouve toujours une excuse pour ne pas la signer, quelle que soit l’année. Le Japon n’a en réalité aucune intention de la signer. Les japonais enlèvent constamment leurs propres enfants les uns des autres. Même un ancien premier ministre, Junichiro Koizumi, l’a fait. Leurs excuses sont que c’est la façon japonaise de faire les choses, que c’est la coutume japonaise, et que c’est la loi japonaise.

Peut-être croyez-vous que je demande une action extrême. Point du tout. Les Japonais sont des maîtres de l’art diplomatique et de la politique; ils nous battent à plate couture sur le plan des négociations et du retardement tactique. Ils sont de grands joueurs de poker. Il est temps que nous arrêtions de jouer au poker avec la vie de nos enfants et que nous disions au Japon qu’à ce sujet, assez c’est assez. La diplomatie normale ne mène nulle part; il est temps de honnir le Japon pour le forcer à faire ce qu’il doit.

Je vous prie d’agréer, Monsieur le Ministre, l’expression de ma considération respectueuse.

Vincent Poirier

Copies envoyées à José Nunez-Melo (député, Laval), La Presse, Le Devoir, Le Journal De Montréal, The Montreal Gazette, The Globe And Mail, The Japan Times, et The Daily Yomiuri.

Put Japan’s flag on milk cartons!

7 June 2012

Japan must sign the Hague convention on repatriating abducted children to their normal country of residence. Japanese politicians don’t want to do this because it means reforming domestic family law. So they are dragging their feet, always promising to sign the convention but never actually signing it.

Traditional diplomacy has not succeeded so far.  Well, it’s time to adopt Japanese tactics. Here is something that works very well with Japan: shame.

As long as the Japanese feel their laws are protecting children, they won’t change them. Japanese family court judges are stubborn and do not recognize that depriving children of a loving responsible parent is harmful. But most of the world disagrees with Japan and considers it abduction when Japanese parents take their children back to live in Japan without the other parent’s consent. Japanese lawmakers feel it’s “just moving back home”. The rest of the world calls it kidnapping.


Milk cartons in the US often bear a photo of an abducted child along with the child’s name and last known whereabouts. In the case of international parental abductions, why not add the flag of the abducting country in the bottom corner of the picture? Japan would hate this. They would try and stop it, but they would fail.

The only way for them to remove the flag would be to return the child.

This would not help me. For one thing, my daughter Emilie is living in her normal country of residence. For another, even if Japan reformed its family laws and signs the Hague convention no retroactive action will probably be taken. But if this helps others avoid what I went through, it will make me happy.

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