Stop Jailing Moms for Protecting Their Kids; Support Abuse Survivors MM and KT

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To Justice Minister David Lametti,

It shocks our conscience that you would send survivors of male violence against women to foreign jails to face vindictive charges brought by abusive ex-spouses. In the cases of Canadian citizens MM and KT (both names protected by publication ban), it is abundantly clear that the low standards of Canada's Extradition Act are being used as a back door bludgeon by abusers to continue persecuting women who have escaped their grasp.

It shocks our conscience that these survivors, who have acted in the best interests of their safety and that of their children, are being exposed to extradition proceedings in which the Canadian government and, specifically, your ministry, is acting on behalf of their overseas abusers.

It shocks our conscience that your pursuit of these cases sends an insidious message to other women in Canada who feel trapped in the cycle of abuse: any move they take to protect themselves and their children from abusive fathers and ex-spouses who live in other countries could make them subject to extradition requests, forced removal from Canada, and overseas detention.

Because these cases shock our conscience, and also because Section 44a of the Extradition Act allows you to reject any request that is "unjust or oppressive having regard to all the relevant circumstances," we call on you to stop the extradition cases against MM and KT.

You can also stop these cases under Section 44b, which states "the request for extradition is made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing the person by reason of their race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, language, colour, political opinion, sex, sexual orientation, age, mental or physical disability or status or that the person’s position may be prejudiced for any of those reasons."

It is clear these women are being sought by their ex-spouses because they are women who have escaped their abusers. Indeed, in both cases, the abusive fathers would not see the return of their children under the Extradition Act. It would only serve to punish and further harm the women they are targeting.

Your government is supposed to engage in an across-the-board gender-based impact analysis when it comes to creating and implementing policies, yet in these specific extradition cases, your ministry has failed women who have broken no laws that would leave them open to prosecution here had the alleged offences occurred in Canada.

In MM's case, it has been clear since her ordeal began in 2010 that she was protecting her children from an abusive father in the US. Eight years on, there would clearly be no justice in uprooting MM and sending her to a US prison, where she could spend decades behind bars for a charge that, were it considered in Canada, would provide her with an adequate defence and high likelihood of acquittal. As Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella notes: “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."

In the case of KT, no legal violation occurred that would allow for an extradition to the United Kingdom. She left the UK to visit Calgary with her kids, who intended to return within the 28-day period stipulated in a custody order. But the ex-husband initiated court action before that 28-day period had expired to, without any rationale, forcibly return the children to the UK. Ironically, it was only the father's intemperate legal intervention that has kept the kids here in Canada, where they have decided they wish to stay.

As noted by the B.C. Supreme Court, KT imputes to her ex-husband "a goal of wishing to harm her, using the extradition proceedings and a potential prison sentence as a bludgeon." Like you, the court has dismissed as "irrelevant" proposed evidence about the best wishes of the children (who clearly do not wish to be forcibly returned to the father). Also dismissed was KT's affidavit, documentary evidence of bruising, and U.K. police reports that illustrate a history of assaults that include being hit by her ex-spouse's car.

In the MM case, Supreme Court Justice Abella was clear: "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 similar standard must apply to the case of KT, who committed no crime and who only finds herself in the legal crosshairs of her ex-spouse because of his own abusive actions.

Because these cases shock our conscience and are unjust or oppressive having regard to all the relevant circumstances, we call on you to do the right thing and immediately drop the extradition cases of MM and KT.