Trudeau: Stop Illegal Extradition of Abuse Survivor and Single Mom, MM
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We agree with you, Mr. Trudeau, when you declare: "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.”
That is why we are asking you to stand with abuse survivor MM, a Canadian-born mother of three Canadian children and survivor of male violence whose only “crime” was in choosing to live and to protect herself and her children from physical, psychological, and emotional abuse.
Your government is trying to send MM to the USA, where she will be left with no proper legal defence for saving her children from abuse, and she may face several decades behind bars as a result.
MM's only "crime" was in choosing to live and to protect herself and her children from physical, psychological, and emotional abuse.
Under Canada's Extradition Act, you can say NO to this extradition if you find that it would be “unjust or oppressive having regard to all the relevant circumstances" and if sending her to the US would "shock the conscience" and thereby violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It shocks our conscience that such an extradition would even be considered, and we call on you to stop the extradition of MM immediately.
We felt real hope when your government decided in December, 2015 to reconsider the decision of the Harper government to send MM back to the USA, where she faces criminal charges of custody interference that could land her in jail for several decades. But as Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella clearly points out, sending MM to the USA would violate Canada’s own Extradition Act, because “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."
But last August 3rd, on the very same day that MM watched from a Canadian jail cell the press conference at which Justice Minister Jody Raybould-Wilson announced a national inquiry to address violence against Indigenous women, MM received news that Raybould-Wilson had rubberstamped an order upholding the Harper government’s decision to extradite her to the USA.
In an incredible statement justifying this decision, the Justice Minister complains that – despite abundant evidence of the father's abuse of the children –– MM’s act of saving her kids and taking them to Canada “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 video statement on the case here: https://youtu.be/sJqo7S9VVqI
Raybould-Wilson’s decision also buys into repeated myths about abuse survivors. For example, the Justice Minister casts doubt about the claims of abuse because the kids regularly attended school. In addition, Raybould-Wilson questions their abuse by refusing to accept the fact that the children were too afraid to report the father’s abuse to school officials or police. The decision further attacks MM for not speaking with police (how many violence survivors have heard that line, from the Ghomeshi trial on down!)
When the MM case was heard at the Supreme Court of Canada, three out of seven justices rejected the extradition and criticized the majority’s reasons as “Kafkaesque”. One of Canada’s finest legal minds, Justice Abella, stated: “In light of all the instability and trauma the children have experienced, it is obvious that what would be least harmful for them would be to remain in Canada with the mother who put herself in legal jeopardy to protect them….The question is not whether she was an ideal parent, but whether her conduct in coming to her children’s rescue should deprive them of her care and deprive her of her liberty for up to 15 years. 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.”
Mr. Trudeau, you were recently appointed by Emma Watson as a gender equality ambassador for the global HeforShe campaign. You also spoke at the United Nations in September, where you recalled that during your campaigning for Prime Minister, “I heard from women and girls who still face inequality in the workplace and violence just because they are women, even in a progressive country like Canada.”
We agree that violence against women and children remains an epidemic in Canada. We also believe that women and children escaping violence should not be punished for the sometimes difficult choices they are forced to make in order to find safety.
It shocks our conscience that MM faces a potential 33 years in prison in the U.S. for escaping abuse, despite the fact that the first Canadian court to address this case declared unreservedly that the foundation of the extradition – the ex-husband’s “suspicions” that MM had taken the kids – was “so defective and unreliable that it is not worthy of consideration…. 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.”
Section 285 of the Canadian Criminal Code states that 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.”
Such a defence, however, is not available to MM in the state of Georgia, where she is sought. 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.”
We agree with the lawyer who argued at the Supreme Court that “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.”
As a Prime Minister who says he understands the reality faced by women escaping violence, we call upon you to stop the cycle of violence in this case and stop the unlawful extradition against MM, one that shocks our conscience as we trust it shocks yours.
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