Kevin Maryk pleaded guilty in June to kidnapping his children in 2008 and keeping them in isolation for four years under a pseudonym. Judge Ted Lismer said Maryk abused his position of trust and deprived the children of their mother and of a normal childhood.
"He subjected them to live behind locked doors, barbed wire and surveillance cameras," Lismer said in his decision Thursday.
"He gravely abused them psychologically in depriving them for four years of a normal school education and association with other children."
The judge gave Maryk credit for time served — both in Canada and in Mexico — which leaves just over a year on the sentence. Maryk showed no emotion when his fate was pronounced. He spoke briefly to his lawyer before returning to custody.
The Crown had asked for five years behind bars, saying Maryk didn't allow the boy and girl to go to school and forced them to live as virtual prisoners in a heavily guarded house. The defence, arguing Maryk made a mistake based on concern for his children, wanted his immediate release based on credit for time served.
Maryk took his children from his former wife, Emily Cablek, during a court-ordered visit on Aug. 16, 2008, shortly after Cablek was awarded custody. At the time, Abby was about to turn six and Dominic was seven.
Police got a break in the case in 2012 when a neighbour in Guadalajara called authorities after recognizing the children in a Crime Stoppers video that aired in Mexico. They were brought back to their mother in Winnipeg.
The four years the children spent without their mother are an "irretrievable loss," Lismer said. The children are now struggling in school and lag far behind their peers, both emotionally and academically, he said.
Despite that, Lismer said, Maryk shows a "lack of remorse for this abduction which lasted for four long years" and had no intention of ever returning the children to Canada or their mother.
"He showed a callous disregard for the harm he caused (his children)."
Cablek, who didn't know whether her children were alive or dead, said a four-year sentence doesn't reflect the harm the abduction caused.
"Four years — that's on par with how many years the kids were taken from me and that's not fair," she said following the sentencing. "I didn't get a choice in the matter. He chose to do something illegal. It's just kind of sad to see he pretty much got away with it."
Although Maryk is not allowed to contact either his children or their mother, Cablek said she continues to live in fear.
"How many years is it going to be before he's trying to take the kids from me again?" she said. "To know that Kevin and his family will always be there, (I) will always be ... looking over my shoulder."
Defence lawyer Todd Bourcier had told court that Maryk took the children because he was worried their mother was returning to a life of prostitution and drug use. There is no chance Maryk would attempt to abduct 14-year-old Dominic or 13-year-old Abby again, he said.
Bourcier told the judge Maryk is not "the monster the Crown is making him out to be" but rather "a father who made a bad mistake.''