Sunday, December 20, 2015

Light Candles of Hope for Hunger-Striking Abuse Survivor MM and her Children: December 20-31, 2015

"In keeping with the government's commitment to helping women and children fleeing violence at home, the Minister of Justice should stop the extradition of a single mom to Georgia."
– Jenny Kwan, NDP Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship critic

Canadian abuse survivor MM is behind bars fighting extradition to the USA for the alleged "crime" of saving her kids from an abusive father. Three of 7 Canadian Supreme Court Justices insisted on December 11 that the case against her be dropped and that MM be allowed to stay in Canada in the best interests of her children. They also pointed out that MM has no proper legal defence available to her in the USA.

December 20 marks Day 9 of MM's prison hunger strike, which will last until Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould decides if she will reconsider the case and, hopefully, stop this unjust, oppressive extradition that shocks our conscience.

MM is in good spirits because of the strong support she is receiving from across Canada. Hundreds have called, written, emailed, and tweeted the Justice Minister, but still there is no word.

How much longer must MM wait? How much longer must her children suffer the agonizing limbo of wondering if they shall spend the rest of their childhood as orphans?

The new Trudeau government has committed to a national action plan to end violence against women. Surely, one of the first items on that agenda should be a refusal to criminalize a mother who protected her children from abuse.

From December 20-31, we ask that you pledge to light a candle of hope each night for MM and her children, and that each day, you send a simple message to the Justice Minister (,,,, that would read something like this (feel free to personalize):

Today, Day 9 of MM's prison hunger strike, I am lighting a candle of hope for Canadian abuse survivors MM and her children. Please stop this extradition and allow MM to raise her kids in Canada. It is not a crime to save your children from abuse. 

Tailor each day's email to reflect another day of being on hunger strike ( December 21 will mark Day 10, December 22 will mark Day 11, etc etc.

Make sure MM is referenced in the subject line of your email.

If you tweet, please go to Jody Wilson-Raybould @Puglaas PLS and ask her to Stop Extradition of MM: Saving Children From Abuse is NOT a Crime

Feel free to include the following quote as well:

"At the end of the day, there is little demonstrable harm to the integrity of our extradition process in finding it to be unjust or oppressive to extradite the mother of young children she rescued, at their request, from their abusive father. The harm, on the other hand, of depriving the children of their mother in these circumstances is profound and, with respect, demonstrably unfair....To surrender the mother for her conduct in protecting the children is to penalize them for reaching out to her by depriving them of the only parent who can look after them. Moreover, because the defence of rescuing children to protect them from imminent harm does not exist in Georgia, the mother will not be able to raise the defence she would have been able to raise had she been prosecuted in Canada." – Justice Rosalie Abella, Supreme Court of Canada


Women Who Choose to Live, on behalf of MM and her kids (who cannot be identified due to a publication ban)

Children Plead with Justice Minister: Keep Our Mom in Canada

Coverage of this case:

Globe and Mail:


Sunday, December 13, 2015


Monday December 14 marks Day 3 of MM's hunger strike in prison. She is a Canadian abuse survivor fighting extradition to the USA for the "crime" of saving her kids from an abusive father. The videolink below is her childrens' plea to the Justice Minister to stop this injustice.

Sunday night and all day Monday are critical in keeping MM from being sent to the USA. Please help by asking Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to stop the extradition and reconsider the case.

1. If you tweet, please go to Jody Wilson-Raybould @Puglaas PLS and ask her to Stop Extradition of MM: Saving Children From Abuse is NOT a Crime

2. Please email a brief note with the same message to the following addresses:,,,   If you have already emailed, please do so again, this time with the additional concern about the health of a woman who is hunger striking in prison.

3. Call-in day on Monday: Please call (613) 992-1416 and register your request to stop the extradition with Wilson-Raybould's Ottawa office. The staff there are VERY NICE and listen patiently, so please be polite! We are trying to track calls, so if you get through, drop us a line at!


Women Who Choose to Live, on behalf of MM and her kids (who cannot be identified due to a publication ban)

Children Plead with Justice Minister: Keep Our Mom in Canada

Coverage of this case:

Globe and Mail:


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Urgent Action Appeal for Abuse Survivor Facing Possible Extradition to USA and 33 Years Behind Bars

December 8, 2015
Urgent Action Appeal for Abuse Survivor Facing Possible Extradition to USA and 33 Years Behind Bars


Earlier today, Canada's new Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, launched a long-awaited process to develop an inquiry into the thousands of murdered and missing Indigenous women.  Ms. Wilson-Raybould has spoken numerous times about the need to respect the rights of and support women who have been the targets of male violence. These are both very refreshing signs.

However, on Friday of this week, a case will pass by her desk that could determine whether a female Canadian abuse survivor gets sent to the United States to face a possible 33 years in prison,  even though her only "crime" was in choosing to live and to protect herself and her children from physical, psychological, and emotional abuse.

MM (whose name cannot be revealed because of a publication ban) is charged with child abduction even though, as a provincial court has found, “We are in the presence of children running away from an abusive father without the knowledge or assistance of their mother, living in an abandoned home and finally begging their mother to take them away, so that their father couldn’t hurt them again.”

As a provincial court judge concluded, MM “could not be found guilty in Canada…if her intent was to protect the children from danger of imminent harm at the hands of their father and this, even if she did have the specific intent of depriving [him] of possession of the children as well.” No jury reasonably instructed in Canada would convict her, the judge concluded in dismissing the case.

Unfortunately, Canada's Justice Dept. (under Stephen Harper) appealed this decision and won based on very narrow technical grounds related to the Extradition Act. The case will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court on Friday morning (December 11).

If MM wins, the case will be reconsidered. If she loses, the Justice Minister has one of two choices: to surrender MM to the U.S., forcing her children into foster care or, alternatively, to determine that surrender would shock the conscience of Canadians and should be denied.

If your conscience is shocked that someone in MM's shoes faces being sent to the USA for saving the lives of her children, please send a quick email (details below).

1. PLEASE email the Minister of Justice, the Parliamentary Secretary for Justice, and the International Assistance Group (which advises the Minister of Justice on such cases) at the following emails (this can be one email addressed to all three):,,  Let them know that regardless of Friday's court decision, the potential extradition of MM shocks your conscience and should be turned down. Please put  "MM Case" or "Please do not Extradite MM" in the subject line.

2. Learn more about this case at

Thank you

Matthew Behrens
(on behalf of the Women Who Choose to Live campaign)

Sunday, October 4, 2015


Basil Borutski's rampage took place 11 months to the day Michael Zehaf-Bibeau stormed Parliament Hill, but unlike that shooting there have been no marquee events by federal leaders calling for a national action plan on violence against women

Eleven months to the day Michael Zehaf-Bibeau went hunting for targets in Ottawa – killing ceremonial guard Nathan Cirillo at the national war monument – another lone gunman was on the loose in Eastern Ontario, murdering three women as Renfrew County was set to host its annual Take Back The Night march.

As happened during the Parliament Hill shooting, schools, courthouses, and other public institutions were on lockdown in a number of Ottawa Valley communities on September 22. Heavily-armed police searched for and eventually arrested a suspect (Basil Borutski) in the targeted killings of Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton. All were reportedly former partners of Borutski who, according to published reports, has a lengthy criminal record (including past charges involving two of the women).

Both gunmen caused panic. And both were banned from possession of firearms, although both managed to get their hands on weapons. But that’s where the similarities end.

After he emerged from the closet in which he had hidden last fall, Stephen Harper immediately invoked the Zehaf-Bibeau shooting – which, despite considerable disagreement, he insisted was a terrorist attack – as a rationale for introducing Bill C-51 and for bombing ISIS, both costly initiatives that most critics agree fail to address the root causes of terrorism.

Harper then used Cirillo’s funeral and subsequent Remembrance Day ceremonies as PR opportunities to further his fear agenda. Yet, in Renfrew County, where friends and neighbours continue reeling from the devastating aftermath of what anti-violence workers are calling “intimate terrorism,” there was no visit from the PM to join in the candlelight vigils, no prime ministerial eulogies at the funerals of the three women and no telegrams of condolence from the PMO condemning such acts of terror. There was no mention of the tragedy at all on the campaign trail.

The emotional damage to the rural area around Wilno, Ontario, where everyone knows everyone else – Kuzyk’s face was recognized on real estate signs throughout the county – was akin to that following a natural disaster. But the silence of leaders who would normally offer words of condolence or visit a stressed region (as Harper did earlier in the campaign during the BC forest fires and after the death of Alberta toddler Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette before one of the federal debates) was palpable.

Borutski’s rampage took place 12 hours after what was supposed to have been a federal leaders’ debate on women’s issues sponsored by Up For Debate, an alliance of more than 175 women’s organizations that was looking forward to the first such electoral gathering on the issue in 30 years.

But the debate was cancelled a month earlier when the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair refused to take part because Stephen Harper would be a no-show. In the end, Mulcair, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, the Greens’ Elizabeth May and Bloc head Gilles Duceppe each provided taped interviews. It was an unfortunate compromise given the powerful symbol of what could have been: federal leaders appearing on the same stage and publicly embracing the call for a national action plan to end violence against women and girls.

Such a plan was mandated by a United Nations in 2006, but despite a 2015 deadline for implementation, Canada has failed to move an inch on the issue.

The Harper government has been similarly recalcitrant on another UN recommendation related to violence against women: an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women (currently numbering at least 1,200).

The murders in Renfrew follow a similar targeting of three women in Winnipeg in July, in which a disgruntled man mailed letter bombs to his ex-spouse and two lawyers involved in their divorce proceedings. One of the packages blew off lawyer Maria Mitousis’s right hand, causing other serious injuries to her chest, face, and thighs. Combined with annual reports on femicide in Canada, they are gut-wrenching reminders of how little has actually been done on the issue of violence against women.

Indeed, when the Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses prepared its own action blueprint earlier this year with input from organizations across the country, it reminded us that “the current response to violence against women has failed to significantly lower the levels of violence” over the past two decades in Canada.

The statistics they cite bear this out. On any given night, 4,600 women and 3,600 children are forced to sleep in emergency shelters due to violence. During one single day snapshot of shelters across Canada, some 379 women and 215 children were turned away from already full shelters, according to the report.

It also notes that of some 460,000 victims of crime seen by victim services organizations in Canada in 2011-12, 84 per cent of women were receiving treatment because of a violent offence, 30 per cent were related to sexual assault, with 61 per cent reporting violence at the hands of a current or former spouse or other family member. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg since only about 10 per cent of such assaults are reported.

The Alberta Council for Women’s Shelters asked the federal parties to outline how they would establish a national action plan to address issues of violence against women. Predictably, the Conservatives did not respond. The NDP, Greens and Liberals all endorsed platforms that appear to have taken note of the blueprint. The Greens provided the most detail, including a promise to increase shelter and sexual assault centre funding, while the NDP, short on specifics, nonetheless committed to “dedicated funding and clear benchmarks.”

The blueprint lamented that responses to violence against women in Canada are “largely fragmented, often inaccessible, and can work to impede rather than improve women’s safety.”

Those words certainly ring true in Renfrew, where many locals have publicly stated their belief that better coordination and communication could have prevented September’s targeted killings.

Indeed, Borutski has a lengthy record of assault, breach of parole, and stints in jail.

One of the women victims carried a panic button used by survivors of intimate partner violence, and all had expressed their fear of Borutski.

Significant questions remain unanswered: were the women warned when he was released from prison last December? Why was it so easy for him to return to the very community where his presence prompted real fears? Why, as CBC reported, was he released despite refusing to sign a probationary order not to contact Kuzyk? Why was it so easy for someone with such a lengthy record of violence to obtain a gun?

 Some of the answers to these questions may come out in a trial, but they will be too late for three women who were simply trying to go about their daily lives.

Whether their loss will be a factor that propels the next Canadian government to a clear plan on ending such violence may become clearer after the ballots are counted on October 19, but based on their disturbing silence after the Wilno shootings, it seems doubtful.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Canadian Woman Faces 33 years in U.S. Prison for Protecting her Kids from Abusive Father

(originally published at

By Matthew Behrens
            When Justice Minister Peter MacKay announced he was leaving politics to spend more time with his top priority – a family he began with his spouse, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, who advocates for an end to violence against women and children – he missed the opportunity to protect a Canadian family of four who are all survivors of brutal violence inflicted by a U.S.-based father/ex-husband.
            Now, that family – all Canadian citizens – lives in daily fear of being torn apart as a result of Canada’s woefully unfair Extradition Act, under which the U.S. is seeking the mother for an alleged violation of a highly problematic custody order. She faces up to 33 years behind bars because she and her children had had enough of the violence they experienced while living stateside and chose, instead, to live, by coming to Canada. 
            MacKay’s exit date is October, so he still has the power to rescind his extradition order against MM, a mother and survivor of male violence who cannot be identified due to a publication ban. MM had survived years at the hands of an abuser who’d broken her ribs and teeth, kicked her while she was pregnant, raped and threatened to kill her, and beat and terrorized their three children. It’s a complex story that spans almost two decades, replicating the well-known patterns of male violence against women and kids, as well as the use of courts and police as further tools of control over a woman who wanted only to be free of violence.
Following the 2001 breakup of her marriage, custody of MM’s three children bounced back and forth between her and the ex-husband due to a number of aggravating circumstances. In 2008, a judge imposed a draconian custody order in MM’s  absence that prevented her from having any contact with her children. MM was subsequently arrested for violations of the order on numerous occasions, usually because the children were desperate to be in contact with her.

Kids Run Away From Abusive Father
In November, 2010, while MM was trying to regain access to her kids, the children (then aged 14, 11 and 9) escaped from their abusive father and lived a week in an abandoned house, sleeping on a concrete garage floor. Afterwards, they couch-surfed from house to house, all the while begging MM to take them in. She refused, noting she could go to jail if she had any contact with them. Given the desperate circumstances of the children, who continued couch-surfing in an effort to avoid being returned to their abusive father  – and the increasing levels of violence and threats made against MM by her ex – she turned to an adult daughter from a previous marriage, who packed a distressed MM and the kids in a car and drove them to Canada (where MM was born).
The U.S. then sought to have MM brought back through an extradition request based  only on the father’s “suspicions” that MM had taken the children from him. The  RCMP found the family in a women’s shelter by tracing the internet log-in passwords of the children. MM was arrested and jailed two days before Christmas (she would remain behind bars awaiting bail for six months), and her children assigned to foster care. At the time of the arrest, a Mountie acknowledged that the children “expressed their fear of the father.” 
The first two weeks in jail, a devastated MM cried incessantly, and was eventually given anti-depressants, the first pills she had ever taken in her life. Her main concern was preventing the children from being returned to their abusive U.S. father.  “From a jailhouse with zero resources, I pulled from any place I could to make sure those children were not sent back to their abuser, and even the children said, ‘we’re not going back, we’ll take foster care here.’”
In a 2011 Canadian court hearing, MM testified that back in the U.S., the father had called police after the children ran away, alleging MM had taken the kids intentionally. MM did not know they had run off and was frantic not knowing where they were. Police searched her house on numerous occasions but the children were not there.
            Speaking of her decision to come to Canada, MM said, “I made the decision that I had to protect myself, he was gonna kill me, he threatened to kill me, he threatened to kill the kids, and he beat me and I said, ‘that’s it.’ My daughter said: ‘Enough is enough. Mom, let’s go.’ She’s twenty-nine (29) years old. So we drove to Canada and I crossed the border and went immediately into a women’s shelter.”
Asked why she went to a women’s shelter, she replied, “Because I had been beaten by him for the last final time.”

Case Found “Defective and Unreliable”
In August, 2011, a provincial court judge rejected extradition, noting the only evidence proffered by the US was the ex-husband’s “suspicions” that MM had taken the kids, a rationale which was found “so defective and unreliable that it is not worthy of consideration.” The judge pointed out that “the children were not abducted but rather ran away from their father, who was physically and mentally abusing them. The children only contacted their mother more than a week later, and she refused to have them stay at her house knowing she was bound by the 2008 custody order; instead, she filed a motion for custody of the children” in the U.S.
“We are in the presence of children running away from an abusive father without the knowledge or assistance of their mother, living in an abandoned home and finally begging their mother to take them away, so that their father couldn’t hurt them again,” the judge noted.
The judge also referenced a concept familiar to the extradition process known as double criminality, whose purpose, as defined by the Supreme Court of Canada, is to “safeguard the liberty of an individual whose extradition is sought by ensuring that he or she is not surrendered to face prosecution in another country for conduct that would not amount to a criminal offence in the country of refuge.” The provincial court found that under Section 285 of the Criminal Code (which provides a defence for those charged with “abduction in contravention of custody order”), no one shall be found guilty of an offence if the act of receiving or harbouring a young person was “necessary to protect the young person from imminent harm or if the person charged with the offence was escaping from danger of imminent harm.” Thus, the judge concluded, MM “could not be found guilty in Canada…if her intent was to protect the children from danger of imminent harm at the hands of their father and this, even if she did have the specific intent of depriving [him] of possession of the children as well.” No jury reasonably instructed in Canada would convict her, the judge concluded.
In addition, such a defence against charges of custody interference and abduction does not exist in the U.S. jurisdiction to which MM might be sent.
Suddenly free to get on with her life, MM’s sense of relief did not last long. The Harper government appealed on behalf of the U.S. and the abusive father, who in interviews with child protection workers never referred to his children by name, and also admitted to hitting them with his belt buckle. (Indeed, the father had made no request to contact the children or for custody in Canada, claiming it would be too long a trip to come and get them. As one child protection worker wrote, “He did not express that he loved the children and wanted them to return to the home.” A social worker assigned to the case noted that American children’s services “cannot confirm that the children will be safe from abuse if taken back.”
A provincial court of appeal reversed the decision to quash the extradition, and the case found its way to the Supreme Court of Canada this past spring. The children sat close to their mother that day and, in what was likely a first for that staid institution, once the judges left at hearing’s end, the kids sang a beautiful song of hope they had composed. Clearly moved by the emotional place from which the kids were singing, guards did not seek to have them leave the hallowed chambers until the song was complete.
If Canada’s top court rules in MM’s favour, the case will go back to the Justice Minister (Peter MacKay) for further consideration (still no guarantee of safety for MM, given that such decisions are political). If not, MM will be arrested and transferred to the U.S., her kids delivered into foster care, and her elderly mother (for whom MM cares) will be forced to enter a nursing home.

Living in Fear
With school out for the summer, the kids remain frazzled because that life-altering Supreme Court decision could come any day.
According to one of MM’s two youngest children, “We want to stay here [in Canada] where we feel protected and safe. Our mom did not kidnap us. It was us who ran away from our dad. The day we left our dad he was coming to hit us again because when we lived with our dad he would always hit us all the time. He would beat us and always threaten us with bad things and that he would find us if we ever left.”
            In the same way MM divorced her husband because she had had enough of the endless cycle of emotional, psychological, and physical violence, her children ran away because they, too, had had enough.
“I didn’t wanna be hit anymore so I decided to run and I ran outside and he told me to go back inside [but I knew] he was going to hit me again and I didn’t want to be hit anymore because I was so tired of being hit,” said one of the children. “He didn’t want us to see our mother because he was always mad at her after she divorced him. One day he caught us trying to walk to her house and he ordered us to get into the car and he drove us back. Whenever he went to my room he started hitting me with the belt so hard, it would be so often that he hit us that it wouldn’t even hurt anymore, and then he would go to my sister’s room and hit her and tell her to stop crying when he hit her.”
According to MM’s youngest child, “He would always tell me to stop crying and that I need to be tough. He was always afraid that the neighbours would hear.” The middle child concurs, noting, “He told us never to tell anybody and that anytime someone would come over we would say everything was OK because we would always be so scared that he would hit us again.”
MM’s middle child says “since we’ve been in Canada, we feel safe here with our Mom, but we’re always scared that our dad might come back while we’re sleeping and pick us up again. We always have nightmares or are afraid that the police might show up while we’re having dinner and just take us.”
            The children’s worst fears were realized four years after they escaped to Canada. Last November, while they were at school, their abusive father showed up unannounced  at their Canadian home, inviting himself into the house when the only one home, MM’s elderly mother (who has Alzheimer’s), did not recognize him. Coming home from school, the children recognized the U.S. licence plates on his car in their driveway and ran off. They eventually reunited with their mother in a women’s shelter, where they spent two weeks until they were sure the father had left Canada. The children, who wanted to remain in the shelter, returned home reluctantly and fearfully only when MM promised to dispose of the chair in which the father had been sitting waiting for them.
            As they await a court decision, they try and get on as a family, juggling school, soccer practice, and a mom who has to sign in with the authorities on a weekly basis and adhere, five years later, to very strict bail conditions.

Push-pull factors of an Abusive Relationship
            What was MM’s second marriage in 1995 was disastrous from the start. Living in a Caribbean nation, she suffered physical, mental, emotional abuse from the beginning, and after the birth of a first child, came to Canada to escape the father. “I married him without thinking,” she says, but adds, “I felt bad and felt like everything was my fault, so I went back to [the Caribbean] and got a visitor visa for him to come to the U.S. [MM is a dual citizen].” Pregnant with a second child, things went downhill again, and she received a temporary protective order preventing him from coming near her or the first-born. She returned to Canada with their first- and second-born children, and he followed her here, during which time he whipped and raped her before leaving again for the U.S.
            MM says she suffered the push-pull factors of an abusive relationship, and that after getting the “baby blues” following the third birth, she visited the father once again in the Caribbean nation. After a short while there, though, he abandoned them when he got his residency papers for the U.S., leaving them without any of their documents. Meanwhile, MM was also battling an alcohol problem.
“It’s a vicious cycle and this is a way a person self-medicates to continue in an abusive relationship, and so in my case it was alcohol and cannabis,” MM says. While alone with seven children (including the elder four children from her first marriage), she returned to the U.S. and her home renovation business, but the father would not leave them alone. In MM’s words, it continued to be “abuse, abuse, abuse in every possible way anybody can imagine, and he said he would kill me or destroy me by imprisoning me forever.” She eventually had him charged, but the case resulted only in a sentence of anger management classes.
Following a 2001 divorce, she received custody of the children, with the father receiving visiting rights.  He was granted temporary custody in 2005 when MM went for three months of rehabilitation. Fearful for the safety of herself and her children, MM at one point took the children out of state for six months. It was during this time that the father went to court and got the 2008 order for sole custody, no contact with the children, and an end to his alimony payments. MM says she was never served notice of the hearing, and had no chance to present her side of the story. The kids believed he got custody because he lied to the judge about the mother abusing them and that, according to a child welfare report, “He put the blame of his own actions onto the mother’s back.”

Set-up for Arrest
All during these years, MM says everywhere she turned, she faced possible violations of the court orders and probation. “One January, he had me arrested when he gave me permission to take the kids to my house for a holiday and then he called the police on me for interference of custody,” MM recalls. “He then said he didn’t give me permission. He was setting me up to be arrested.”  
When the courts granted temporary custody to her ex-husband in 2005, MM says sadly, “My kids went to him for custody. I gave him the house, the swimming pool, the toys, everything. I walked out of my own house, with only a suitcase.” At that point, she entered rehab, after which the temporary custody order expired and she took the children out of state (which led to the full-custody, no-contact order imposed against MM by the court in her absence).
The three children, however, were desperate for their mother, and kept trying to be in touch with her. At a very young age, the father left them alone five nights a week while he was out working. Other times, MM says they would be locked in the basement or forbidden from seeing friends. “They weren’t being fed or bathed or hair-brushed,” MM recalled. “What was I supposed to do?” Unable to say no to the cries of her children (a social worker’s evaluation stated that MM had “always taken good care” of the kids), she would be subsequently arrested numerous times for violating the custody and no-contact order when the kids went to her house.  
In submissions to Canada’s Justice Minister, MM’s lawyers noted, “While it is true that [MM] did not always respect the conditions imposed on her by United States court orders, it should be understood that she has always done so for the good of her children. …When she fled to Canada with the children…[MM] felt that she didn’t have a choice, as the children begged her to take care of them and help them to run away from the danger that the custody of their father represents to them.”  They went on, “it is clear from the evidence that there was a danger of imminent harm to the children…there were no reasonable legal alternatives” available to her.
             In addition to such details, a critical factor was addressed before the Supreme Court on behalf of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association (Ontario) by lawyer John Norris, who has handled many an extradition case. He reminded the justices that under the Extradition Act, the Justice Minister has to consider if surrender would be “unjust or oppressive having regard to all the relevant circumstances.” In noting that the U.S. has confirmed MM would not have the same defence stateside as she would in Canada, he declared: “As a matter of fundamental justice, criminal liability cannot be imposed on someone when realistically he or she had no choice but to commit the otherwise wrongful act.” Under Section 285 of Canada’s Criminal Code, if certain actions are justified, “then they are not wrongful at all and it would be contrary to the principles of fundamental justice to impose a criminal sanction in the absence of any blameworthy conduct.”  Further, “surrender to a legal system which does not provide for a defence that is required by the principles of fundamental justice would be unjust and oppressive. It would violate the principles of fundamental justice. It would shock the conscience and be simply unacceptable. It would, in short, not be lawful under Canadian law.”

 Next Steps
As she tries to deal with the cloud hanging over her head, MM is studying to become a paralegal, and advocates for women behind bars while sitting on the board of a women’s shelter.  She says many of the women she met in prison were abuse survivors like herself.  
MM is proud that she has been clean for four years, and continues to attend counseling individually and with her family. In other words, things are going fairly well, a result that could all come undone depending on the Supreme Court decision and what Justice Minister Peter MacKay (or his eventual successor) decides.
Homes not Bombs, which runs a campaign called Women Who Choose to Live, is organizing political and financial support for MM, from a letter-writing campaign to Justice Minister Peter MacKay to establishing a trust fund for MM’s kids (with the goal of raising $10,000). Details on support are below.

1, Letters to Justice Minister Peter MacKay: Simple requests urging that he reverse his extradition order and allow MM to stay in Canada with her children, since she has done what any parent under the circumstances would do. Please make letters polite and to the point, without making political statements (as those would reflect badly on MM). MacKay can be reached at,,, and   In Subject line: Stop the Extradition of MM. Feel free to cc your MP as well as the NDP Justice critic Françoise Boivin ( and Liberal Justice Critic Sean Casey

3. Contribute to the MM Trust Fund. You can send an email money transfer to or cheques can be made out to Homes not Bombs and mailed to PO Box 2121, 57 Foster Street, Perth, ON K7H 1R0 (put MM in subject line). There is absolutely zero overhead for this: all funds will go directly to support MM’s children.

4. Send a personal letter of support to MM and the children c/o Homes not Bombs at PO Box 2121, 57 Foster Street, Perth, ON K7H 1R0


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Domestic Violence Survivor Sentenced, Transferred To ICE Custody Pending Deportation , #StandWithNanHui

(reprinted with permission from

April 28, 2015
Nan-Hui Jo reacts to the guilty verdict in her trial last month. (Photo credit: Randy Pench / Sacramento Bee)
Nan-Hui Jo reacts to the guilty verdict in her trial last month. 
(Photo credit: Randy Pench / Sacramento Bee)
An hour ago, the judge in Nan-Hui Jo’s child abduction case rejected the motion to dismiss the guilty verdict against her, and sentenced Jo to 175 days of jail (counted as time served) and three years probation. A jury found Jo guilty of child abduction last month — despite errors in jury instructions highlighted by Jo’s defense in their motion — after Jo fled an abusive relationship she believed endangered both herself and her child and (because she lacked documentation to remain in the United States) returned to Korea.

Jo’s conviction on the child abduction charges now stand (and likely await an appeal) which significantly complicates her fight to regain custody of her six-year-old daughter, who is currently being cared for by Jo’s abuser, the child’s father. Meanwhile, because Jo is not a U.S. citizen, ICE placed a deportation hold on her. After her sentencing today, Jo was transferred to ICE custody and is being detained in an ICE facility pending a decision on deportation.

With this move, Nan-Hui Jo is likely to become one of the thousands of immigrant parents separated from their families by ICE deportation.

This is a devastating setback for Nan-Hui Jo and her supporters. The community is urged to contact ICE Sacramento, and to tweet @icegov and @customsborder and urge them to drop the deportation proceedings.

Supporters are currently awaiting Jo as she as processed out of county jail and released to ICE.
This post will be updated with details as they emerge.

Lawyer: Botched Jury Instructions Led to Wrongful Kidnapping Conviction for DV Survivor

(reprinted with permission from

April 24, 2015
Nan-Hui Jo reacts to the guilty verdict in her trial last month. (Photo credit: Randy Pench / Sacramento Bee)
Nan-Hui Jo reacts to the guilty verdict in her trial last month. (Photo credit: Randy Pench / Sacramento Bee)
There have been major developments in the case of Nan-Hui Jo, the Korean American survivor of domestic violence who fled with her young child to Korea to escape a dangerous and abusive relationship, only to face kidnapping charges when she returned to the United States for a visit.
Earlier this year, Jo was retried on charges that she kidnapped her daughter — her first trial ended in a hung jury. Jo’s abuser, who is her daughter’s father, claims that Jo’s escape to Korea violated his parental access. Yet, at the time of Jo’s departure, she was facing loss of legal immigration status and was facing deportation. Jo’s abuser, Jesse Charlton — an Iraq war veteran — confessed that at the time he was unemployed, emotionally unstable due to largely untreated PTSD and substance abuse, and was not prepared to assume full-time custody of their daughter. Facing the possibility that she would become an undocumented immigrant (and therefore unable to obtain work) and fearing for her and her daughter’s safety if they remained within Charlton’s influence, Nan-Hui Jo did what conservatives dream of: she “self-deported” with her child.

A protester holds a sign in support of Nan-Hui Jo. Photo credit: Down Like JTown
A protester holds a sign in support of Nan-Hui Jo. Photo credit: Down Like JTown

While in Korea, Jo received several emails from Charlton demanding that she return their daughter to the United States. While most emails were pleading in tone, in one email, Charlton threatened to send a mutual friend — a “scary” bounty hunter who had taken lives in the Iraq War and whom both were aware had allegedly raped his wife — to find her. Frightened by these emails, Jo further distanced herself from Charlton and refused to respond to him. Last year, when Jo applied for a travel visa to visit the United States to tour schools for her daughter, who is an American citizen, was Jo arrested and charged with kidnapping.

Jo’s retrial galvanized the Korean American community and domestic violence advocates. Jo’s supporters argue that the charges against Jo — whose abuser confessed on the witness stand to grabbing Jo by the throat and throwing her against a wall — are punitive retribution for steps Jo felt were necessary to protect the physical safety of herself and her child.

In some studies, up to 2/3rds of Asian American women say that they have experienced domestic abuse in their marriages.

Confoundingly, Jo was found guilty last month on the kidnapping charges, even after one juror was permitted to recuse herself on the grounds that returning a guilty verdict in the case would be immoral and unjust. Next Tuesday, Jo faces sentencing and possible deportation, which would likely prevent Nan-Hui Jo from having further contact with her daughter for (at the very least) the rest of the child’s upbringing.

That verdict may be an interpretation of what the law expects, but it is not what justice looks like.

An Instagram user posts her support for #StandWithNanHui.
An Instagram user posts her support for #StandWithNanHui.
However, there is new hope in this case.

Late last month, Nan-Hui Jo’s defense was taken up by high-powered lawyer Dennis Riordan, whom the Davis Vanguard characterizes as “among the best known defense attorneys in the state, having represented, among others, Barry Bonds, O.J. Simpson and Lodi terrorism suspect Hamid Hayat.”

Defense attorney, Dennis Riordan.
Defense attorney, Dennis Riordan.
Riordan has hit the ground running. After filing a 4-week continuance on the sentencing so that he could familiarize himself with the case, Riordan has now filed a motion to set aside Nan-Hui Jo’s guilty verdict, citing “multiple, serious legal errors” in Jo’s second trial.

Riordan’s motion charges that the judge in Jo’s case — Judge David Rosenberg — made a fatal error in jury instructions that led to Jo’s wrongful guilty verdict. The kidnapping charge that Jo was found guilty of requires that the kidnapper exhibit “malice” in committing the act. There are legal precedents that guide the determination of “malice”.

Riordan contends that the judge erroneously instructed the jury to define the term “malice” by a broader meaning; one that did not require that Jo be aware that she might be deliberately breaking a law when she removed her daughter from the country. Yet, Riordan says that this broader definition of “malice” was misapplied with regard to the particular charges in the Jo case leading jurors to the wrong interpretation of the law. Reports the Davis Vanguard:
[Riordan] argues that “[t]he Court altered the definition of malice provided by Neidinger in order to instruct the jury pursuant to CALCRIM 250… rather than CALCRIM 251…” However, the Bench Note to CALCRIM 250 states that “this instruction must not be used if the crime requires a specific mental state, such as knowledge or malice, even if the crime is classified as a general intent crime.”

Mr. Riordan argues, “Plainly, the Court erred in reducing the definition of malice to the terms of CALCRIM 250. In so doing, the Court effectively eliminated malice as an element of the offense that had to be proven above and beyond the general intent required of every criminal violation in California.”

This is not a small error, because it was the definition of malice that caused the juror to question the legal definition of malice, which resulted in the judge dismissing her.
Mr. Riordan continues, “The Court compounded that error by instructing the jury that a defendant’s belief in the legality of her actions could not constitute a defense. When properly defined, the element of malice is inconsistent with an honestly held belief in the legality of ones action’s.”
In commenting on this motion, blogger David Greenwald who runs the Davis Vanguard said:
From our perspective, there are two key points that Mr. Riordan raises. First, that the judge erred on his instruction on malice. And second, as a result, there was no malicious or unlawful taking of the child by Ms. Jo.

Toward the issue of jury instructions, this case is unusual in that there is no way to deny that, if the judge misinformed the jury on the legal definition of malice, it was a harmful error. Judge Rosenberg dismissed Juror #5, Denise Hoffner, from the jury over the objections of the defense – after she brought it to the judge’s attention that, while she did not believe Ms. Jo acted with malice, the way the law was written, she would have no choice but to convict.

She said, “Look at this woman, she couldn’t have done this maliciously.” But then, “we get this definition that we’re supposed to use malice like it’s not used anywhere, why do they even have the word in the statute? Because it wasn’t about malice when we were instructed to decide the case.”

However, it seems that Ms. Hoffner was right. The court never looked at a key case, the 2006 People v. Neidingercase. Mr. Riordan argued that “the court altered the definition of malice provided by Neidinger” and instructed the jury to consider “malice” under “general intent” rather than “specific intent.”

Judge Rosenberg in fact did this, despite the explicit warning in the jury instructions to the bench that “this instruction must not be used if the crime requires a specific mental state, such as knowledge or malice, even if the crime is classified as a general intent crime.”

In other words, Ms. Jo had to be aware at the time that she was breaking the law to have illegally abducted her daughter, rather than simply being aware of her actions and performing them intentionally, as the jury interpreted them.

If Mr. Riordan is right, this is not only a serious legal error by Judge Rosenberg, but is the issue at the heart of the jury verdict. As Mr. Riordan points out, “The errors also deprived Ms. Jo of her state and federal constitutional right to be convicted only upon the unanimous decision of the twelve jurors selected to decide her case.”
It remains to be seen whether or not Riordan’s motion will result in an overturning of Jo’s guilty verdict.

However, what is clear from Greenwald’s editorial on the Davis Vanguard that justice has not yet been found in this case. Greenwald, whose website has been maintaining a courtwatch of the trial proceedings, lays out the legal and moral Catch-22 that Nan-Hui Jo faced when she made the impossible decision to escape her relationship; her circumstances defy the notion that she acted recklessly and with malice intent in removing herself and her daughter from the situation. In fact, from Jo’s perspective, she was acting in compliance with federal law.
Nan-Hui Jo and Jesse Charlton engaged in a passionate relationship that resulted in the birth of the child. At the time, Mr. Charlton was neglectful of his responsibilities and was suffering from PTSD.

He attempted to convince Ms. Jo to have an abortion, while family members attempted to convince her to give the baby up for adoption.

Ms. Jo, due to her financial problems, was forced to drop out of school, which put her student visa in jeopardy. As a means of rectifying the situation, she attempted to marry Mr. Charlton, but he declined to do so. Tensions escalated and Mr. Charlton admitted on the stand that he assaulted her by lifting her by the throat and slamming her into the wall.
Facing a federal immigration directive to leave the country, Ms. Jo made plans to leave. It was only then, at the last moment, that Mr. Charlton attempted to keep his daughter in the country by filing for custody rights in the family court.

Mr. Riordan rather convincingly argues that Ms. Jo didn’t violate Penal Code section 278.5 before leaving California on November 8, 2009 with her daughter. Instead, he argued, she was required to leave to avoid violating federal immigration laws and he argued that “under the Supremacy Clause [it] trumped any state court order to remain in the state (even had Ms. Jo been served with that order, which she was not.)”

Mr. Charlton did not have custody or even visitation rights with the daughter under any form of judicial order before Ms. Jo left the state. Moreover, “He has testified that he would have been incapable of caring for (the child) if she had been left with him when Ms. Jo left for Korea, and he agreed at that time that (the child) should remain with her mother.”

The prosecution has relied on Ms. Jo’s lack of response to Mr. Charlton’s emails as proof of malice. However, Mr. Charlton in emails “threatened to come after Ms. Jo with a ‘scary bounty hunter’ who had ‘rolled up his wife in a mattress and raped her.’”
The immigration pressure, along with Mr. Charlton’s physical abuse and verbal threats, ought to paint Ms. Jo’s actions in a very different light.
One can only hope that Riordan’s influence on Nan-Hui Jo’s defense will finally shine that necessary light on this domestic violence survivor’s plight. However, given how this case has attracted all matter of domestic violence apologists who express a breathtaking range of defenses for domestic abuse, I hope you can forgive my fears. 67 Comments, it’s easier to find an American male abuser more sympathetic than his victim, a foreign-born non-English-speaking woman of colour.

Banner for next week's Pack the Court event.
Banner for next week’s Pack the Court event.
Campaigns to support Nan-Hui Jo remain active through these latest developments. A letter-writing campaign is ongoing to provide Nan-Hui Jo with much-needed emotional support and strength from the community. Meanwhile, organizers are also asking that supporters in the area pack the courtroom next Tuesday, April 28th, during Nan-Hui Jo’s sentencing. They write in the Pack the Courtroom Facebook event:
Please join us for Nan-Hui’s sentencing next Tuesday, and help us make calls to ICE and CBP until then. We need your support ramping up the calls to ICE/CBP again, because we are very concerned about the likelihood that Nan-Hui will be picked up by ICE *that day* if she is released—we heard recently of another undocumented person who was taken by ICE from the lobby/waiting room in Yolo County Jail. Call ICE and CBP to say DROP the immigration hold and NO deportation proceedings for Nan-Hui!
Help is needed to apply pressure to Immigration & Customs Enforcement and Customs & Border Protection, asking that the deportation proceedings against Nan-Hui Jo be dropped: in addition to phone calls and emails, you can sign this petition and participate in an ongoing Twitterstorm to @icegov and @CustomsBorder.
Please also tweet all of your action to #StandWithNanHui.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Stand with Nan-Hui Jo, Facing Double Punishment in California

(from her support website,

Nan-Hui Jo is a proud and devoted Korean single mother, an avid photographer, and writer of children’s books. She loves to spend time with her daughter, take photos, and visit places alongside the ocean.
In 2009, Nan-Hui fled to Korea with her daughter to escape physical and emotional abuse by the father of the child, a combat veteran of the Iraq War with PTSD and anger issues. Using a common manipulation tactic to control a partner’s attempts to regain independence, her ex-partner reported Nan-Hui for child abduction. When Nan-Hui landed in Hawai’i with her daughter in July 2014, she was handcuffed, arrested, and immediately separated from her daughter in an operation that involved Yolo County Child Abduction Unit, Honolulu Police Department, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol). Nan-Hui has not been able to see her daughter since. She has also been placed under an immigration hold issued by CBP and enforced by ICE.

Nan-Hui’s former partner has publicly testified about his repeated violence against her, confirming at least one incident of physical assault. He has also, on two separate occasions, broken his hand while punching the wall by her head, and again when punching the car’s steering wheel when she was in the car with him. When Nan-Hui fled and attempted to rebuild her life, he “sent emails saying he was ‘considering spending thousands of dollars on a scary bounty hunter.” It must be noted that domestic violence thrives behind closed doors, away from the eyes and ears of the public, and these incidents are simply the ones that have been publicly brought to light. 

Nan-Hui and her daughter have an incredibly close and caring relationship. She named her daughter Vitz Da, meaning “all light” in Korean. Like many survivors of domestic violence, Nan-Hui has also been concerned about violence against her child. According to a study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, 30 to 60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household. Vitz Da, who lived in Korea for most of her life, has been abruptly disallowed any contact with her mother, and she is now under full custody of her White American father.

Domestic violence is not just physical violence; it often involves “coercive control, economic abuse, emotional abuse, and/or sexual violence. It is intended to gain or maintain power and control over a romantic or intimate partner to intimidate, frighten, terrorize, humiliate, blame, or injure.” Nan-Hui’s former partner’s patterns of violence fit well into the prototypes of abusive partners, using different forms of power to control, manipulate, and smear their partners. Conflict in relationships is normal. Punching walls and hitting steering wheels to intimidate your partner, escalating into extreme physical assault, and threatening to use a bounty hunter is a pattern of abuse and violent behavior.

Nan-Hui was tried on December 15, 2014, for “child abduction,” and the trial resulted in a hung jury. The Yolo County District Attorney Steve Mount, however, pursued a retrial. He refused to acknowledge the importance of domestic violence in Nan-Hui’s case and instead, used all resources available to prosecute her. It is deeply disturbing how aggressively the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, Customs & Border Protection (CBP), and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) is working to prosecute, criminalize and deport a single immigrant mother and survivor of domestic violence. Instead of being granted protection, survivors of domestic violence are often criminalized: the ACLU reports that of all incarcerated women in the United States, 85-90% have a history of domestic and sexual abuse. Survivors of domestic violence should not be punished for defending themselves, protecting their children, and rebuilding their lives from the violence of an abuser.

On March 3rd 2015, Nan-Hui was convicted of “child abduction” in her re-trial. Her sentencing is set to take place on April 28, 2015. As Nan-Hui is still under an immigration hold, deportation proceedings could take effect immediately after her sentencing, which could separate Nan-Hui from her daughter permanently.