But the Crown said there was no basis for Kevin Maryk, 42, to believe the kids were in any danger.
Maryk sat passively at the conclusion of his sentencing hearing as the lawyers reiterated their previous arguments before the court. Judge Ted Lismer reserved his decision to Sept. 11.
Crown attorney Debbie Buors, in asking for a five-year sentence, pointed out that the children weren't allowed to go to school and did not get regular medical attention while their father kept them in hiding.
Defence lawyer Todd Bourcier asked that Maryk, who has been in custody since being captured two years ago, be spared any more jail time. He suggested that his client deserves greater sentencing credit for being detained in a Mexican jail after he was caught in 2012.
"A father was trying to protect his children ... and did a horrible thing," said Bourcier, who added Mayrk has taken responsibility by pleading guilty to two counts of abduction.
Maryk abducted his children because he genuinely believed his former wife, Emily Cablek, was using drugs and had been involved in prostitution, Bourcier said.
Maryk took his children from Cablek during a court-ordered visit on Aug. 16, 2008. Their son Dominic was seven at the time and daughter Abby was five.
Maryk was arrested in 2012 after a neighbour in Guadalajara recognized him from a Crime Stoppers video that aired in Mexico and called authorities. Maryk spent five months in a Mexican jail that his lawyer described as "horrendous" and has been in a Winnipeg jail since being brought back to Canada.
Cablek earlier told the court the ordeal has taken a toll on her children, who have been challenged to catch up in school and learn social skills after spending years hidden away.
Bourcier told the judge Maryk was trying to get the kids into a private school, but lacked money at the time. Because they were Canadian, they could not get into a public school in Mexico, he said.
"Once Mr. Maryk got (to Mexico), he was sort of stuck."