Monday, November 21, 2016
By Matthew Behrens
The October release of the Chief Public Health Officer’s report on the “staggering” extent of violence against women and children in Canada served as a timely preamble to the annual Shine the Light campaign of Woman Abuse Prevention Month. Among many educational and public activities, Parliament Hill’s Peace Tower lit up November 15 with the campaign’s purple colour.
Campaign supporters include self-identified feminist Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who declared in a video statement that “it takes tremendous courage and resilience to break free from abuse. I stand in solidarity with victims, with survivors, and with families and loved ones.”
But there’s at least one abuse survivor who hasn't received Trudeau’s support. MM – her name subject to a publication ban – is a Canadian citizen fighting extradition to the United States, where she faces multiple charges for having rescued her kids from an abusive father. In 2010, MM’s three young children, aged 9, 11 and 14, escaped from their father – who at the time had a sole custody order that prevented MM having contact with the children – and sought refuge in an abandoned house, sleeping on a concrete garage floor. Fearful of going to jail if she took the kids in, MM originally rejected their pleas for shelter. But recognizing the children’s increasingly desperate circumstances, MM’s adult daughter from a previous marriage packed her and the kids in a car and drove them to Canada.
MM was arrested two days shy of Christmas in a Quebec women’s shelter, where the RCMP had tracked her down by tracing the children’s internet log-in passwords. At the time of the arrest, a Mountie acknowledged that the children "expressed their fear of the father.”
Since then, MM’s legal journey has traveled the often oblique world of extradition law. After winning in Quebec Superior Court in 2011 – Madame Justice Carol Cohen dismissed the evidence as "so defective and unreliable that it is not worthy of consideration” – the Harper government appealed on jurisdictional grounds. Last December, the Supreme Court, in a bitterly divided 4-3 decision, upheld the extradition, with the dissenting justices calling the majority’s reasoning “Kafkaesque.”
Writing for the minority, Justice Rosalie Abella pointed out that “the defence of rescuing children to protect them from imminent harm does not exist in Georgia [and] the mother will not be able to raise the defence she would have been able to raise had she been prosecuted in Canada." This contradiction violates a cornerstone of extradition law, the “double criminality” requirement that the Supreme Court acknowledges is a process that ensures Canada is “not embarrassed by an obligation to extradite a person who would not, according to its own standards, be guilty of acts deserving punishment.”
A public campaign to convince the newly-elected Liberals to reconsider the case included MM’s two-week jailhouse hunger strike, which ended on December 23 when freshly-minted Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould agreed to examine new information not available to her precedessor.
But even with the extensive new submissions put before her, including personal appeals from MM’s kids as well as expert U.S. opinion on MM’s inability under Georgia law to mount a proper legal defence, Wilson-Raybould said no. MM received the bad news on the same day that the Minister of Justice announced an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
While MM’s lawyers head to the Quebec Court of Appeal in 2017 to judicially review the decision, MM and her youngest children continue to live in the limbo of fear and uncertainty all too familiar to survivors of male violence, one that certainly tests the courage and resilience of which Trudeau speaks.
They also hope that Wilson-Raybould will look at the case once more, and refuse MM’s surrender under Section 44 of the Extradition Act, which allows the Minister to reject any request that is “unjust or oppressive having regard to all the relevant circumstances.”
Such circumstances were certainly clear enough to Justice Abella and her two Supreme Court colleagues, who concluded: “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.”
A petition calling on Trudeau to stop the extradition is available at https://www.change.org/p/justin-trudeau-stop-illegal-extradition-of-abuse-survivor-and-single-mom-mm
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
(Details on urgent public action below)
AUGUST 3, 2016 – Justin Trudeau and his Justice Minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, have shamefully upheld the Harper-era decision to send an abuse survivor and mother of three Canadian children to the USA, where she is charged with interference with custody because she rescued her kids from an abusive father. If convicted, she faces up to 15 years behind bars.
On the same day the federal government announced an inquiry centred on the theme of ending violence against women, MM – as she is known due to a publication ban – sat in a Canadian prison as she received word that the "feminist" Trudeau government rubberstamped the criminalization of actions that were taken to prevent further harm from coming to MM's children.
In a terrible decision issued today, one that is riddled with the types of misunderstandings that continue to plague anyone who has survived abuse, the Trudeau government showed how little it understands the reality of and limited choices available to battered women and abused children. Despite abundant evidence of the father's abuse of the children, the Justice Minister complains that in saving her kids and taking them to Canada, MM has "deprived [the father] of the reasonable ability to visit his children," even though the children were clear that they wanted no contact with him (see the children's own statement on the case here: https://youtu.be/sJqo7S9VVqI). The decision buys into repeated myths about abuse survivors (claiming the fact that children did not report abuse to guidance counselors and attended school regularly casts doubt on their allegations of abuse).
The decision further attacks MM for not seeking legal remedies (as if access to good counsel and the courts in the US is easy and affordable) and for not speaking with police (how many violence survivors have heard that line, from the Ghomeshi trial on down!).
Women Who Choose to Live, an advocacy network that has been supporting MM, is calling on people across the country to write and phone in to "Justice" Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould's office, register their disgust with the decision to extradite MM to the USA, and call on the government to back away from this order and allow MM to stay in Canada with her children, who otherwise will be placed in foster homes. (The Justice Minister rationalizes the choice to break up the family by saying "many families who lose the assistance of a family member because that person is detained in custody find that they have to make changes to manage their new reality.")
The Trudeau government claims that this decision to send MM to a possible 15-year jail term for saving her kids from abuse would not "shock the conscience of Canadians." We disagree, and hope you will too.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Write to Jody Wilson-Raybould and tell her how it shocks your conscience that she would uphold this dreadful Harper-era decision, an insult to abuse survivors everywhere. Please send to these addresses: jody.Wilson-Raybould@parl.gc.ca, Cdncentralauthority@justice.gc.ca, Sean.Casey@parl.gc.ca, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Call Wilson-Raybould's office in Ottawa ( 613-992-1416) and Vancouver (604-717-1140) with the same message" Keep MM in Canada, Don't send an abuse survivor to a US jail for saving her kids from abuse!
BACKGROUND ON THE CASE
Children Plead with Justice Minister: Keep Our Mom in Canada (short video from December, 2015)
"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, on the MM case, December, 2015
Women Who Choose to Live is part of the Homes not Bombs nonviolent direct action network. PO Box 2121, 57 Foster Street, Perth, ON K7H 1R0, (613) 267-3998
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
But one of the most oppressive parts of the jail system is the way in which it keeps loved ones from staying in touch. The price of receiving collect phone calls from jailed loved ones is enormous. In the case of MM, she came home from prison to face a phone bill of almost $800 just to stay in touch with her kids. Her support committee faced charges of over $250 as well.
MM is essentially housebound due to her bail conditions, and faces her phone getting cut off if she cannot pay the bill (she and her kids survive on meagre social assistance). The phone is her link to her lawyers, her support committee, and the outside world.
Women Who Choose to Live is accepting email money transfers to help MM pay off this debt. If you can help us out in any amount, that would be truly appreciated.
Simply send an etransfer to email@example.com . Funds received in excess of $800 will go to support programs for MM's kids.
While we need to change the system in the long run, in the short run, it would be great to help out MM.
Thanks again for your support!