Suspended senator Mike Duffy has reached out to a Peruvian woman who claims to be his long-lost daughter, her lawyer says, a reunion that comes after what she describes as 18 years of unreturned messages to the former broadcaster.
Mr. Duffy contacted the woman's lawyer via Facebook on Monday evening after she went public in a Maclean's magazine story last week, the lawyer said Tuesday.
Karen Duffy Benites, 32, has launched a legal case in Peru to have Mr. Duffy formally declared as her father – largely in a bid to simply meet him or speak to him, as she is not seeking any money or compensation.
That effort appears to have succeeded. Lawyer Jorge Alejandro Rázuri Susoni confirmed Tuesday he'd heard from Mr. Duffy via Facebook, putting Mr. Duffy and the woman claiming to be his daughter in touch. "Out of respect for the parties we will not be making any further comments or statements at this moment," Ms. Duffy Benites's lawyer said Tuesday.
The message came hours after Ms. Duffy Benites spoke with The Globe from Peru. During the interview, she said she always understood Mr. Duffy to be her father and began trying to contact him when she was 14. She had, at the time of the interview, not ever heard back from him.
"I have been trying to contact him for years now, since I was 14, and since I have not had any reply from him, I think this is now the only way to get his attention," Ms. Duffy Benites said, speaking in Spanish through a translator, explaining her legal case.
"If Mike Duffy had replied to any of my e-mails or letters, of if he had made any contact, then this wouldn't have happened," she later added. "But this is now the only way that he may feel somewhat pressured to acknowledge and recognize my existence and his paternity."
There's little information of what Mr. Duffy discussed with Ms. Duffy Benites's lawyer. Mr. Duffy declined to comment.
Legal documents filed in Peru outline the claim Ms. Duffy Benites is making, though the allegations are unproven and Maclean's reported Mr. Duffy said the claim is based on "untrue allegations." The case essentially would have seen Mr. Duffy declared her father in Peru, not Canada, unless he'd taken a DNA test to disprove her claim. As of this week, the legal notice still was working its way through diplomatic channels and had not reached Mr. Duffy, the lawyer said.
According to other documents in the case, Ms. Duffy Benites's mother, Yvette Benites Ruiz, met Mr. Duffy's sister, Moira, while both were in prison in Kingston, Ont. That led her to meet Mr. Duffy, and a relationship began in 1981 when he was "an important journalist" in Canada, according to one document. However, Mr. Duffy's full name, in documents filed as part of her case, is Michael Dennis Duffy.
The document says Ms. Duffy Benites was born out of that relationship – March 15, 1982 – and that he had full knowledge of her birth. Her birth certificate lists a "Mike Duffy Clayton," a TV reporter in Ottawa, as the father, according to one document.
Ms. Duffy Benites came forward at a time when Mr. Duffy is facing other legal problems. RCMP laid 31 charges against him last week after an investigation that began largely as an inquiry into his expense claims. He was suspended from the Senate last fall but is eligible to reclaim his seat after the next election. He has pledged to fight the charges and maintained his innocence.
Ms. Duffy Benites, who is married with three children, stressed she was not looking for financial compensation. She just wanted to meet Mr. Duffy.
"His response, acknowledgement, or a call will suffice. But primarily, I want him to recognize me, legally, as his daughter. I was not born from earth, air, or water. I have a father. And that father is Mike Duffy. That is my right," she said. "…I want him to demonstrate the values he has, once and for all, and say 'I am your father' and take ownership of this. Because you can be a bad politician, you can be a bad driver, you can be whatever, but never a bad father – because that is your legacy, that is what you leave behind."
Ms. Duffy Benites uses her full name in the legal documents, but is also identified in some simply as "Karen Duffy."