REGINA — A national Indigenous group says it is urging Ottawa to act quickly to bring home a Saskatoon woman who is jailed in the United States.
Dawn Walker, who is 48 and a member of Okanese First Nation, remains in federal custody in Oregon after she fled to the U.S. with her seven-year-old son by allegedly using false identification.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada said it is in the best interest for Walker to return to Saskatoon where she can face her Canadian charges.
“I would like her to come back to Canada where she will spend her day in court, and the facts will be known,” association president Carol McBride said Monday in a phone interview from Ottawa.
Walker, who has said she was fleeing domestic violence, faces identity fraud charges in the U.S., as well as child abduction and public mischief charges in Canada. Officials have accused her of faking her and her son’s death in an elaborate ruse to enter the U.S.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice Canada said extradition requests are confidential between two states and, thus, cannot comment on them unless made public by the courts.
Walker’s family have also called on Saskatchewan’s Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre to step in.
Eyre said it would be inappropriate as minister of justice and attorney general to become directly involved.
“I have full confidence in Public Prosecutions’ ability to work with its U.S. counterparts to ensure that these matters are dealt with expeditiously and appropriately,” Eyre said in a statement.
Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Justice said Saskatchewan’s Public Prosecutions remains engaged with U.S. authorities to have her returned home and expedite the legal process.
McBride said the association is concerned officials on both sides of the border will fail to take into account the circumstances involved when Indigenous women believe they are not safe.
“Indigenous women who are fleeing domestic violence require special consideration. I totally believe in that,” McBride said.
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls found that the violence directed at Indigenous women in Canada is a genocide, the association said.
The report also attributed the high risk of violence to the failure of police and others in the criminal justice system to adequately respond to intimate-partner crime for Indigenous women, McBride said.
“I’m hoping that they bring her back to a Canadian court where it has already been determined that Indigenous women do face discrimination and genocide,” McBride said.
In a statement released last week, Walker said she was failed by the Saskatchewan justice system because “nothing was done” after she reported domestic abuse to police and child protection authorities. She said she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of abuse.
Saskatoon police have said domestic violence may or may not play a role in their investigation of Walker, and that any previous allegations made by her were thoroughly investigated, but no charges were laid.
The father of Walker’s son could not be reached for comment. But he told Saskatoon radio station CKOM earlier this month that he would never hurt Walker or their son.
“There’s no truth to any of that, and that’s all I can say,” the father said.
The boy has since been returned to Canada.
Walker’s next court appearance is in Oregon City, Ore., on Sept. 7.