The Native Women’s Association of Canada is joining the growing call to bring Dawn Walker back to Canada.
The First Nations mother and executive is being held in an Oregon jail on charges related to parental abduction and identity fraud.
Walker, an Okanese Cree woman, was discovered in Oregon City on Aug. 5 after she and her seven-year-old son were reported missing from Saskatoon on July 22. Police were searching for the pair and preparing to drag a river when news broke they had been found hundreds of kilometres to the south.
Walker remains in custody in Portland, Ore. But the Native Women’s Association of Canada [NWAC] says she should be extradited back to Canada to deal with her charges here.
NWAC President Carol McBride said the case illustrates the frightening reality many Indigenous women face.
“Can you imagine what our sisters go through throughout this country?” McBride said in an interview. “That horrible, horrible word – genocide.
“And that’s what all these actions lead up to – genocide.”
In a release, McBride added she is “gravely concerned officials in the United States, and even here in Canada, will fail to take full account of the systemic circumstances involved when Indigenous women believe they are not safe, even in reaching out to those mandated to protect them.”
NWAC cited the findings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls that violence directed at Indigenous women in Canada is genocide, and that much of that violence is committed by domestic partners.
Darlene Rose Okemaysim-Sicotte with Iskwewuk E-wichiwitochik (Women Walking Together) in Saskatoon also said it’s important Walker be returned to Saskatoon as quickly as possible.
“(We want) an extradition request to bring our loved one back to our country around the support of our community, colleagues and friends, and especially family,” she told APTN News, “because we know what that experience is like in the judicial system.”
McBride said Canada may be better equipped to address the “unique circumstances” faced by women in the justice system.
“This is not a place – a safe place – to live as Indigenous women,” she said. “That’s the part that I’m going on, and that’s the part I’m going to fight for, that the government starts moving on these (national inquiry) calls for action.”
Walker said in a statement after her arrest that she fled Saskatoon because she feared for her and her son’s safety. She is scheduled to appear in an Oregon court on Sept. 7.