Saskatchewan

Supporters are calling for Dawn Walker's extradition: Here's how that might work

Supporters of the Saskatoon woman who is accused of faking her own death in Canada and fleeing to the United States say she should be extradited back to Canada. A legal expert explains how the process might play out.

Complicated process begins with formal request from Canada: law professor

Supporters for Dawn Walker gather at the legislature in Regina on Tuesday to issue calls for Walker to be extradited back to Canada from the U.S. (Adam Bent/CBC)

Supporters of the Saskatoon woman who is accused of staging her disappearance and then fleeing to the U.S. say she should be brought home to Canada. 

Dawn Walker, 48, and her son, age seven, were at the centre of an exhaustive, emotional search after they were reported missing from Saskatoon on July 24. They were found in Oregon City on Friday, and Walker has been detained in the U.S. since.

Walker is charged in the U.S. with aggravated identity theft, which, if convicted, would lead to a minimum prison sentence of two years. She has also been criminally charged with parental abduction and public mischief in Canada. 

U.S. prosecutors allege that Walker faked her and her son's deaths as part of an elaborate scheme that began several months ago and involved stolen identities, as well as a fraudulent bank account

People defending Walker believe there is more to the story than meets the eye, and they want officials to bring her closer to home. 

"I really support and hope that they will extradite her back to Canada so that she can face those charges here on her homeland," Walker's aunt, Marie-Anne Daywalker-Pelletier, said at a support rally in Regina Tuesday night.

Erica Beaudin, the executive director of Regina Treaty/Indian Services, encouraged others at the rally to amplify calls for extradition. 

"Dawn felt that she had no other choice, but that is her story to tell," Beaudin said. "But our story — as family, as friends, as colleagues, as women — is to stand and to say, 'We want you safe and home here on your own treaty lands to tell your story.'"

She could be extradited back here to be tried on the Canadian offences and then re-extradited back to the U.S. to be tried on the American offences.- Rob Currie, law professor, Dalhousie University

Extradition is the formal legal process that allows federal governments to send people from one country to another to face prosecution or serve a sentence, according to Rob Currie, a law professor at the Schulich school of law at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

It's ultimately up to U.S. officials to make the final decision on whether Walker will be extradited and when, but the process must begin with the Canadian Department of Justice making a formal request to the U.S. 

CBC News asked the government department if it has made the request but did not receive a response by publication time.

Once the request is made, U.S. officials would hold an extradition hearing to consider things including paperwork, evidence and criteria for legal extradition. 

"It's not unusual for the individual who is sought to waive the process, which is to say, 'I voluntarily agree to go back to Canada,'" Currie said, noting this would speed up the process. 

Several paths possible

If the extradition is given the go-ahead, Currie says, the process could play out in different ways since Walker faces charges on both sides of the border. 

Currie, who specializes in transnational criminal law, said one option would be for Walker to bounce between Canada and the U.S., answering to criminal charges in both countries. 

"She could be extradited back here to be tried on the Canadian offences and then re-extradited back to the U.S. to be tried on the American offences," Currie said.

"If she's convicted in either country, she can be sent to serve a sentence in one country, and then sent to serve a sentence in the other country." 

Alternatively, Currie says there is a chance the U.S. could drop their charges against Walker given their nature. 

"I would say the most serious of the allegations involve things that are supposed to happen in Canada. It's not unusual for the Americans in that situation to say, 'OK, you know what, we're going to drop our charges and and just go ahead with extradition,'" he said.

"It's not unusual, particularly if the American side charges are sort of low-level compared to the Canadian side charges." 

Walker's charges in the U.S. relate to false identity documents. 

"One of those is a felony," Currie said. "One of them is a misdemeanor. Arguably, neither of them is as serious as child abduction and public mischief."

Identity theft charge

If the U.S. drops its charges, Currie says, Walker could potentially face identity theft charges in Canada, where the alleged offence began. 

The Saskatoon Police Service said Monday that the criminal investigation into Walker's actions is continuing, and that more charges could be laid.

Community members came together to "Stand with Dawn," in support of Walker who is detained in the U.S.
A demonstrator at the legislature holds a poster supporting Walker. (Adam Bent/CBC)

In another development, Walker released a statement on Tuesday, saying she had "no choice" but to do what she did because she feared for her own and her son's safety. 

Extradition cases that involve allegations of abuse and at-risk children must be considered with care, Currie says. 

"There are a lot of complex gender dynamics and parental dynamics that need to be considered in a case like this, by all of us watching and also by the government authorities who are charged with dealing with the case."

Walker's next court appearance in the U.S. is currently scheduled for next month. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kendall Latimer

Journalist

Kendall Latimer (she/her) is a journalist with CBC News in Saskatchewan. You can reach her by emailing kendall.latimer@cbc.ca.

With files from Yasmine Ghania

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