Sask. woman who disappeared with child still detained in Oregon, facing charges in Canada, U.S.
Community calls for patience, raises money for legal support
Dawn Walker is facing charges of parental abduction and public mischief in Canada, along with U.S. charges related to using a false passport, the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) announced Monday.
"As the criminal investigation progresses, there may be further charges that Ms. Walker will face as a result," SPS Deputy Chief Randy Huisman said at a media briefing.
Walker, 48, and her child, whom CBC News is not naming now that they have been found, had been reported missing from Saskatoon in late July.
The two were located in Oregon City, Ore., on Friday, but details remain scarce on how and why they ended up south of the border.
"All I can tell you is that we followed the evidence trail," Huisman said.
He said the investigation involved area searches, as well as looking into the people in her life, cellphone and bank records.
"All those things are taken into account," he said, "and when we start seeing anomalies, we start going in that direction."
Police determined that Walker crossed the border from Alberta into Montana, and that she was located at a rental unit in Oregon City. He said investigators are trying to determine who might have helped Walker travel.
Police said another legal guardian of Walker's child brought them home to Saskatoon on Sunday, while Walker remains detained in the U.S.
Walker's first court appearance is scheduled for Monday, according to police. Huisman said SPS is in consultation with the provincial Crown to arrange Walker's return to Canada.
Walker needs compassion: sister
During the weekend, people close to Walker said the fact that she and her child were found alive has been overshadowed by public speculation and criticism.
"Her situation needs understanding and compassion, and she needs to be heard," said Kathy Walker, Dawn's younger sister. Kathy attended a support rally for Dawn in Saskatoon on Sunday night.
"[Dawn] deserves our support, rather than pointing fingers," she said "I think we have to look at the wider system at play here and how that impacted her taking such drastic action."
Walker is a prominent Indigenous author and high-ranking official with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations who has been described as an advocate for other Indigenous women.
The member of the Okanese First Nation was reported missing to police on July 24 after her friends and family hadn't heard from her — a behaviour considered out of character. She had been last seen on July 22 at a business in Saskatoon.
On July 25, police found her truck and other personal belongings at Chief Whitecap Park, just south of Saskatoon near the South Saskatchewan River. Police learned someone in the area had found Dawn's purse a couple of days earlier.
Emergency crews, community organizations and volunteers spent days searching around the South Saskatchewan River for Dawn and her child with no results.
Kathy said it was an incredible sense of joy and relief to learn that her sister and her nephew were alive.
"When we were searching, there were like so many different possible scenarios that came up, and this one — to find them alive and well was the best one, and nothing else mattered at that moment."
Community members urge patience
Darlene Okemaysim-Sicotte said that joy has been overshadowed by people using social media to vilify Walker.
"We really needed the public to try to understand that in these complex situations, when someone with that kind of a profile and abilities and that intelligence, that there is obviously something critically, critically wrong," she said while attending the support rally in Saskatoon.
"We don't know. But it was something enough for for her to leave abruptly."
Okemaysim-Sicotte is the co-chair of Iskwewuk Ewichiwitochik (Women Walking Together), a grassroots group in Saskatoon supporting families of missing women and murdered Indigenous women.
She said people are angry about the resources used to search for Dawn, and the emotional toll felt by people who worried she and her child had been harmed. The circumstances are confusing, she said, but she urged people to be patient and wait for a fuller explanation.
In Regina, Joely Bigeagle-Kequahtooway released an emotional video on social media after she, too, read the negative backlash.
"This poor woman is facing the legal prosecution and possibly the threat of having her child taken away from her, and what she needs is the community to rally around her and support her — her mental wellness, her emotional and spiritual and physical wellness," she said, adding "the police and those authorities, they just weren't there for her. And the question to ask is why?"
An online fundraising campaign organized by Idle No More is running to support Dawn's legal defence. It's raised $14,397 by Monday at noon.