Petition update

Please Send Email: Indigenous Writer Faces Decades in Prison for Surviving Violence in Saskatchewan

Matthew Behrens
Ottawa, Canada

Dec 2, 2022 — 

Please take 2 minutes to send an email (sample below) to drop all charges against award-winning Indigenous writer (The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour, shortlisted for the 2022 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour), activist and survivor Dawn Walker. As white ribbons emerge and politicians issue boilerplate statements on ending violence against women, why is the Saskatchewan Government threatening Dawn with decades in prison for trying to protect herself and her child? Dawn was completely failed by the criminal and family court systems.  And now she’s being punished for surviving by a system that over-charges her, just as it does so many other Indigenous people. It is imperative that our voices be heard calling for the dropping of all charges.

The 2017 Human Rights Watch report, “Police Abuse of Indigenous Women in Saskatchewan and Failures to Protect Indigenous Women from Violence,” found that Indigenous women victims of violence (including domestic violence) and those at risk reported police insensitivity to their well-being, vulnerability, and cultural background. In addition, far too many Indigenous women survivors of male violence are prosecuted and incarcerated, as documented time and again, recently by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

A powerful statement from Iskwewuk E-wichiwitochik/Women Walking Together asks that “people pause to consider what would make someone as accomplished as an author of four novels, national humour-award-nominated writer, newspaper columnist, law school graduate, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Executive Operating Officer, and loving mother and friend flee with her child to another country in the way she did…. The indisputably well-established lack of safety of Indigenous women in Canada, and a pattern of failure in police and other societal supports for them are part of the context in which all Indigenous women—including well educated, connected, and accomplished women like Dawn—have to make decisions when they don’t feel safe or know their children are not.”

You can stay up to date with Dawn’s case at https://www.standwithdawn.com/ and donate to  her legal fund at https://gofund.me/0a503c39

Please keep sharing our petition: https://www.change.org/p/free-wrongfully-jailed-indigenous-writer-domestic-violence-survivor-dawn-dumont-walker

Thanks for your support!

Women Who Choose to Live

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Sample Email

(Feel free to personalize your letter while remaining respectful, as we do not want anything negative to be held against Dawn. Also add in an appropriate subject line)

To: minister.PCS@gov.sk.ca, status.women@gov.sk.ca, jus.minister@gov.sk.ca

CC: mcu@justice.gc.ca, tasc@web.ca, Johise.Namwira@fegc-wage.gc.ca, Marc.Miller@parl.gc.ca, marci.ien@parl.gc.ca, Jenna.Sudds@parl.gc.ca, David.Lametti@parl.gc.ca, patty.hajdu@parl.gc.ca, leah.gazan@parl.gc.ca,

Dear Ministers Ross and Eyre,

As your government marks 16 days of Action to End Violence Against Women, I am outraged that award-winning Indigenous activist, writer, and survivor Dawn Walker is facing charges that carry a potential for decades in prison for trying to defend herself and her child against violence.

How can you be proud to partner with the STOPS to Violence program – which is dedicated to “long-term systems change that will reduce interpersonal and gender-based violence and abuse in Saskatchewan” – when you are prosecuting a survivor who was failed by the very systems that you agree require change?

Last summer, when she was arrested in Oregon, Dawn released a statement that clearly explained her desperate circumstances. "I left Saskatoon because I feared for my safety and that of my son...[I was] failed by the Saskatchewan Justice system, the family law system and child protection," Dawn wrote. "The police services did nothing to assist me. I reported my concerns to the child protection authorities and again nothing was done. I am fighting systems that continuously fail to protect me as an Indigenous woman and protect non-Indigenous men.”

And yet today Dawn Walker is subjected to strict house arrest with degrading, dehumanizing electronic monitoring and forcibly separated from her child for the alleged crime of trying to survive and to protect her child, as any loving and caring parent would do.

Last January, Federal Justice Minister David Lametti declared, in response to another case where an abused survivor had been wrongfully jailed: "We must continue to work to end gender-based violence and continue to send a clear message to all survivors of sexual assault, domestic abuse and all Canadians that our justice system will serve them fairly and respectfully.”

How is justice being served in piling on so many charges against Dawn Walker? Almost all of the charges she faces would not be applicable if Dawn had been coming here as a refugee, because there is a recognition that refugees are often forced to flee when local state agents are unable to provide them the protection and support they need to survive. Dawn, like so many women in the land known as Canada, became a refugee  from male violence because it was not safe for her, and there were no services to protect her and her child.

Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, said on November 25, 2022 that the “It’s not Just” theme for this year’s annual education and awareness campaign “reminds us of both the injustice of gender-based violence and how society dismisses and minimizes behaviours and beliefs that contribute to it.”

In that spirit, we need to stop criminalizing survivors like Dawn Walker. Part of that is a serious overhaul of a family law system that all too often brushes aside – even disappears – the very clear evidence of male violence against women and kids. The recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls sit on shelves, awaiting implementation and the positive changes that would ensue if they were treated seriously.

Much more systemic change is required that begins with listening to all survivors of male violence against women and children, and having them play a meaningful role in the systemic transformation so urgently required to prevent future tragedies.

In the meantime, I urge you to step back from your overwhelming use of state violence – threatening an Indigenous woman survivor with decades in prison – by dropping the charges, and immediately launching a survivor-designed and led investigation into the systems that failed Dawn and continue to fail so many other women on a daily basis.

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