Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Determined mom merits admiration

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You know them when you see them. The crime victims that hit the news cycle for 24 hours before disappearing into the Internet ether or to a single photo that will become their enduring image.

It's easy to lose faith in the goodness of humanity when you see inexplicable crimes up close.

Time after time, readers and viewers are shown victims who are clueless about police procedural process or the exhausting, laborious court system.

This is what families know in the immediate hours following a crime: Their loved one is gone or terribly hurt, they don't feel any control over what is happening and they're reeling.

Then there's the nightmare they don't know is coming next: the media coverage, the horrific details that emerge about the crime or about the victim's past and the shock that will affect them for months or years to come.

It is, simply, awful.

Which is what brings me to Emily Cablek and her missing kids, who were reunited in May after the children had been abducted four years ago and taken to Mexico.

Cablek and the children's father, Kevin Maryk, had been battling over the custody of son Dominic and daughter Abby.

When the kids were finally tracked down in Zapopan, Mexico, they were allegedly pulled out of a home surrounded by barbed wire and security cameras, with attack dogs, weapons and drugs inside.

Maryk and his friend, Robert Groen, were arrested and are back in Canada facing charges.

The story had so many made-for-TV angles, with Cablek saying she was the "happiest mummy in the world," thanks to her kids' return to Winnipeg.

What touched me about Emily Cablek wasn't the fairy-tale ending of her children's deliverance. It was her grit behind that.

I like Cablek because she didn't give up in the face of insurmountable odds, even when she felt beaten down.

I like her because she was an underdog who faced public scrutiny for the choices she made earlier in her life -- and chose to fight when few people were listening.

When Cablek launched a fund in 2011 to try to hire a private investigator or put up reward money, media coverage was not extensive.

I remember, while covering the story, I thought to myself she'd likely never see her kids again.

I was wrong. And that is fantastic.

How I wish so many other families who have no answers in their children's disappearance or death could be so rewarded. Like the unsolved case of 17-year-old Cherisse Houle, whose body turned up in 2009 in the RM of Rosser and whose photo sat on my desk for years. This year, Cherisse's brother, Jordan Houle, died after he was shot on Maryland Street.

How much pain can there be for one family that has already suffered so much,one wonders. How soon we forget.

Cablek's happy ending was a big story of 2012, when everybody wanted to claim a cuddly winner.

But what touched me was the woman who had marathoned to get to that place.

She's still fighting to get herself and her family on firm footing.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 31, 2012 A6

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