Montreal

Quebec mother loses latest attempt to fight extradition on custody charge

A Quebec woman who has spent six years fighting extradition to Georgia for allegedly defying a custody order has lost her latest attempt to stay in Canada, after a decision by federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould upholds order to send 'M.M.' back to U.S.

In a written decision, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says the extradition of M.M. "would not be unjust, oppressive or 'shock the conscience' of Canadians." (CBC)

A Quebec woman who has spent six years fighting extradition to the U.S. to face charges in relation to a child custody order has lost her latest attempt to stay in Canada.

The woman, a Canadian citizen known in court documents as M.M., is wanted in the state of Georgia for allegedly bringing her children to Canada in 2010 while their father had full custody.

Today, federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said she would not overturn an order to send M.M. back to the U.S. to face trial. 

"I am of the view that [M.M.'s] surrender would not be unjust or oppressive or 'shock the conscience' of Canadians," the minister's decision reads.

No 'imminent harm'

M.M.'s children told Quebec child protection officials that they ran away from their father on their own, claiming he was physically and emotionally abusive. 

The children say they fled to an abandoned house for several days before contacting their mother, who brought them to Canada with the help of an older sibling. 

M.M. claimed she feared for her children's safety, saying her former partner was also abusive towards her. He was arrested in 2004 for domestic assault against M.M., but those charges were dropped after he agreed to attend court-appointed counselling. 

However, in her decision, Wilson-Raybould points out that M.M. "did not pursue legal recourse in the United States, or attempt to contact any authorities that could have assisted her children, if they indeed were at risk of harm."

The minister also states that less than two weeks after the children's father reported them missing in late October 2010, M.M. was arrested in Georgia for driving while impaired with her children in the car. The officer, she said, was unaware that the children had been reported missing. 

"She could have used that opportunity to speak to police about her concerns," wrote Wilson-Raybould.

M.M.'s lawyers had also argued their client would not have available to her in Georgia the same defence on kidnapping charges as she would have in Canada.

Canadian law makes allowances for those determined to have abducted children in order to protect them from "the danger of imminent harm."

But Wilson-Raybould determined that the law in Georgia is similar enough and said the circumstances don't show that the children were in imminent danger. 

Wilson-Raybould added that not sending M.M. back would signal "to the United States that Canada does not have faith in the family courts in Georgia to properly adjudicate child custody matters."

Another appeal likely

Marie-Hélène Giroux, M.M.'s lawyer, said her client now has 30 days to ask for a judicial review of the minister's decision that would be heard by the Quebec Court of Appeal. 

Giroux said she will petition to have her client released from custody while she awaits the review.

M.M.'s children are now aged 15, 16 and 20. 

In her decision, Wilson-Raybould says it will be up to a family court to decide what happens with the two children who are still minors. 

Complicating matters is the fact that, although the children's father had custody in the U.S. in 2010 when the charge was laid against M.M., a Quebec judge later granted M.M. full custody.

"My understanding is that the children wish not to go back to their father, so that means that they will have to be given to child protection," said Giroux. "This is something that is very painful for the children to foresee: being in foster homes."

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