Monday, November 21, 2016

Trudeau’s Feminist Words Ring Hollow on the MM Extradition Case

Trudeau’s Feminist Words Ring Hollow on the MM Extradition Case

By Matthew Behrens

The October release of the Chief Public Health Officer’s report on the “staggering” extent of violence against women and children in Canada served as a timely preamble to the annual Shine the Light campaign of Woman Abuse Prevention Month. Among many educational and public activities, Parliament Hill’s Peace Tower lit up November 15 with the campaign’s purple colour.

            Campaign supporters include self-identified feminist Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who declared in a video statement that “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.”

            But there’s at least one abuse survivor who hasn't received Trudeau’s support. MM – her name subject to a publication ban – is a Canadian citizen fighting extradition to the United States, where she faces multiple charges for having rescued her kids from an abusive father. In 2010, MM’s three young children, aged 9, 11 and 14, escaped from their father – who at the time had a sole custody order that prevented MM having contact with the children – and sought refuge in an abandoned house, sleeping on a concrete garage floor. Fearful of going to jail if she took the kids in, MM originally rejected their pleas for shelter. But recognizing the children’s increasingly desperate circumstances, MM’s adult daughter from a previous marriage packed her and the kids in a car and drove them to Canada.

            MM was arrested two days shy of Christmas in a Quebec women’s shelter, where the RCMP had tracked her down by tracing the children’s internet log-in passwords. At the time of the arrest, a Mountie acknowledged that the children "expressed their fear of the father.”

            Since then, MM’s legal journey has traveled the often oblique world of extradition law. After winning in Quebec Superior Court in 2011 – Madame Justice Carol Cohen dismissed the evidence as "so defective and unreliable that it is not worthy of consideration” – the Harper government appealed on jurisdictional grounds. Last December, the Supreme Court, in a bitterly divided 4-3 decision, upheld the extradition, with the dissenting justices calling the majority’s reasoning “Kafkaesque.”

            Writing for the minority, Justice Rosalie Abella pointed out that “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." This contradiction violates a cornerstone of extradition law, the “double criminality” requirement that the Supreme Court acknowledges is a process that ensures Canada is “not embarrassed by an obligation to extradite a person who would not, according to its own standards, be guilty of acts deserving punishment.”

            A public campaign to convince the newly-elected Liberals to reconsider the case included MM’s two-week jailhouse hunger strike, which ended on December 23 when freshly-minted Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould agreed to examine new information not available to her precedessor.

            But even with the extensive new submissions put before her, including personal appeals from MM’s kids as well as expert U.S. opinion on MM’s inability under Georgia law to mount a proper legal defence, Wilson-Raybould said no. MM received the bad news on the same day that the Minister of Justice announced an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

            While MM’s lawyers head to the Quebec Court of Appeal in 2017 to judicially review the decision, MM and her youngest children continue to live in the limbo of fear and uncertainty all too familiar to survivors of male violence, one that certainly tests the courage and resilience of which Trudeau speaks.

            They also hope that Wilson-Raybould will look at the case once more, and refuse MM’s surrender under Section 44 of the Extradition Act, which allows the Minister to reject any request that is “unjust or oppressive having regard to all the relevant circumstances.”

            Such circumstances were certainly clear enough to Justice Abella and her two Supreme Court colleagues, who concluded:  “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 petition calling on Trudeau to stop the extradition is available at https://www.change.org/p/justin-trudeau-stop-illegal-extradition-of-abuse-survivor-and-single-mom-mm

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

"Feminist" Trudeau Government Condemns Abuse Survivor Who Saved Her Kids From Abusive Father


(Details on urgent public action below)

AUGUST 3, 2016 – Justin Trudeau and his Justice Minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, have shamefully upheld the Harper-era decision to send an abuse survivor and mother of three Canadian children to the USA, where she is charged with interference with custody because she rescued her kids from an abusive father. If convicted, she faces up to 15 years behind bars.

    On the same day the federal government announced an inquiry centred on the theme of ending violence against women, MM – as she is known due to a publication ban – sat in a Canadian prison as she received word that the "feminist" Trudeau government rubberstamped the criminalization of actions that were taken to prevent further harm from coming to MM's children.

     In a terrible decision issued today, one that is riddled with the types of misunderstandings that continue to plague anyone who has survived abuse, the Trudeau government showed how little it understands the reality of and limited choices available to battered women and abused children. Despite abundant evidence of the father's abuse of the children, the Justice Minister complains that in saving her kids and taking them to Canada, MM has "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 statement on the case here: https://youtu.be/sJqo7S9VVqI). The decision buys into repeated myths about abuse survivors (claiming the fact that children did not report abuse to guidance counselors and attended school regularly casts doubt on their allegations of abuse).

    The decision further attacks MM for not seeking legal remedies (as if access to good counsel and the courts in the US is easy and affordable)  and for not speaking with police (how many violence survivors have heard that line, from the Ghomeshi trial on down!).

    Women Who Choose to Live, an advocacy network that has been supporting MM, is calling on people across the country to write and phone in to "Justice" Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould's office, register their disgust with the decision to extradite MM to the USA, and call on the government to back away from this order and allow MM to stay in Canada with her children, who otherwise will be placed in foster homes. (The Justice Minister rationalizes the choice to break up the family by saying "many families who lose the assistance of a family member because that person is detained in custody find that they have to make changes to manage their new reality.")

    The Trudeau government claims that this decision to send MM to a possible 15-year jail term for saving her kids from abuse would not "shock the conscience of Canadians." We disagree, and hope you will too.

WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Write to Jody Wilson-Raybould and tell her how it shocks your conscience that she would uphold this dreadful Harper-era decision, an insult to abuse survivors everywhere. Please send to these addresses: jody.Wilson-Raybould@parl.gc.ca, Cdncentralauthority@justice.gc.ca, Sean.Casey@parl.gc.ca, mcu@justice.gc.ca, tasc@web.ca

2. Call Wilson-Raybould's office in Ottawa ( 613-992-1416) and Vancouver (604-717-1140) with the same message" Keep MM in Canada, Don't send an abuse survivor to a US jail for saving her kids from abuse!



BACKGROUND ON THE CASE
http://womenwhochoosetolive.blogspot.ca/2015/06/canadian-woman-faces-33-years-in-us.html

Children Plead with Justice Minister: Keep Our Mom in Canada (short video from December, 2015)
https://youtu.be/sJqo7S9VVqI

CBC: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/dissenting-judges-call-extradition-ruling-kafkaesque/article27738677/

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/ndp-stop-extradition-of-quebec-mother-1.3370818


"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....To surrender the mother for her conduct in protecting the children is to penalize them for reaching out to her by depriving them of the only parent who can look after them. Moreover, because the defence of rescuing children to protect them from imminent harm does not exist in Georgia, the mother will not be able to raise the defence she would have been able to raise had she been prosecuted in Canada." – Justice Rosalie Abella, Supreme Court of Canada, on the MM case, December, 2015



Women Who Choose to Live is part of the Homes not Bombs nonviolent direct action network.  PO Box 2121, 57 Foster Street, Perth, ON K7H 1R0, (613) 267-3998

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Help us Pay MM's Outrageous Jail Phone Bill

Last December, MM, a single mother of three who is fighting extradition to the US for the alleged "crime" of saving her kids from an abusive father, spent three weeks behind bars, getting released when Canada's Justice Minister agreed to review her case. Your strong support played a major role in this historic decision!

But one of the most oppressive parts of the jail system is the way in which it keeps loved ones from staying in touch. The price of receiving collect phone calls from jailed loved ones is enormous. In the case of MM, she came home from prison to face a phone bill of almost $800 just to stay in touch with her kids. Her support committee faced charges of over $250 as well.

MM is essentially housebound due to her bail conditions, and faces her phone getting cut off if she cannot pay the bill (she and her kids survive on meagre social assistance). The phone is her link to her lawyers, her support committee, and the outside world.

Women Who Choose to Live is accepting email money transfers to help MM pay off this debt. If you can help us out in any amount, that would be truly appreciated.

 Simply send an etransfer to tasc@web.ca . Funds received in excess of $800 will go to support programs for MM's kids.

While we need to change the system in the long run, in the short run, it would be great to help out MM.

Thanks again for your support!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Light Candles of Hope for Hunger-Striking Abuse Survivor MM and her Children: December 20-31, 2015



"In keeping with the government's commitment to helping women and children fleeing violence at home, the Minister of Justice should stop the extradition of a single mom to Georgia."
– Jenny Kwan, NDP Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship critic

Canadian abuse survivor MM is behind bars fighting extradition to the USA for the alleged "crime" of saving her kids from an abusive father. Three of 7 Canadian Supreme Court Justices insisted on December 11 that the case against her be dropped and that MM be allowed to stay in Canada in the best interests of her children. They also pointed out that MM has no proper legal defence available to her in the USA.

December 20 marks Day 9 of MM's prison hunger strike, which will last until Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould decides if she will reconsider the case and, hopefully, stop this unjust, oppressive extradition that shocks our conscience.

MM is in good spirits because of the strong support she is receiving from across Canada. Hundreds have called, written, emailed, and tweeted the Justice Minister, but still there is no word.

How much longer must MM wait? How much longer must her children suffer the agonizing limbo of wondering if they shall spend the rest of their childhood as orphans?

The new Trudeau government has committed to a national action plan to end violence against women. Surely, one of the first items on that agenda should be a refusal to criminalize a mother who protected her children from abuse.


LIGHTING CANDLES
From December 20-31, we ask that you pledge to light a candle of hope each night for MM and her children, and that each day, you send a simple message to the Justice Minister ( jody.Wilson-Raybould@parl.gc.ca, Cdncentralauthority@justice.gc.ca, Sean.Casey@parl.gc.ca, mcu@justice.gc.ca, tasc@web.ca) that would read something like this (feel free to personalize):

Today, Day 9 of MM's prison hunger strike, I am lighting a candle of hope for Canadian abuse survivors MM and her children. Please stop this extradition and allow MM to raise her kids in Canada. It is not a crime to save your children from abuse. 

Tailor each day's email to reflect another day of being on hunger strike ( December 21 will mark Day 10, December 22 will mark Day 11, etc etc.

Make sure MM is referenced in the subject line of your email.

If you tweet, please go to Jody Wilson-Raybould @Puglaas PLS and ask her to Stop Extradition of MM: Saving Children From Abuse is NOT a Crime

Feel free to include the following quote as well:

"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....To surrender the mother for her conduct in protecting the children is to penalize them for reaching out to her by depriving them of the only parent who can look after them. Moreover, because the defence of rescuing children to protect them from imminent harm does not exist in Georgia, the mother will not be able to raise the defence she would have been able to raise had she been prosecuted in Canada." – Justice Rosalie Abella, Supreme Court of Canada


Thanks!

Women Who Choose to Live, on behalf of MM and her kids (who cannot be identified due to a publication ban)
http://womenwhochoosetolive.blogspot.ca/


Children Plead with Justice Minister: Keep Our Mom in Canada
https://youtu.be/sJqo7S9VVqI

Coverage of this case:

Globe and Mail: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-extradition-hunger-strike-1.3362595

CBC: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/dissenting-judges-call-extradition-ruling-kafkaesque/article27738677/

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/ndp-stop-extradition-of-quebec-mother-1.3370818

Sunday, December 13, 2015

URGENT ACTION CONTINUES! WRITE, CALL, TWEET (DETAILS BELOW

Monday December 14 marks Day 3 of MM's hunger strike in prison. She is a Canadian abuse survivor fighting extradition to the USA for the "crime" of saving her kids from an abusive father. The videolink below is her childrens' plea to the Justice Minister to stop this injustice.

Sunday night and all day Monday are critical in keeping MM from being sent to the USA. Please help by asking Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to stop the extradition and reconsider the case.

1. If you tweet, please go to Jody Wilson-Raybould @Puglaas PLS and ask her to Stop Extradition of MM: Saving Children From Abuse is NOT a Crime

2. Please email a brief note with the same message to the following addresses: jody.Wilson-Raybould@parl.gc.ca, Cdncentralauthority@justice.gc.ca, Sean.Casey@parl.gc.ca, tasc@web.ca   If you have already emailed, please do so again, this time with the additional concern about the health of a woman who is hunger striking in prison.

3. Call-in day on Monday: Please call (613) 992-1416 and register your request to stop the extradition with Wilson-Raybould's Ottawa office. The staff there are VERY NICE and listen patiently, so please be polite! We are trying to track calls, so if you get through, drop us a line at tasc@web.ca!

Thanks!

Women Who Choose to Live, on behalf of MM and her kids (who cannot be identified due to a publication ban)
http://womenwhochoosetolive.blogspot.ca/


Children Plead with Justice Minister: Keep Our Mom in Canada
https://youtu.be/sJqo7S9VVqI

Coverage of this case:

Globe and Mail: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-extradition-hunger-strike-1.3362595

CBC: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/dissenting-judges-call-extradition-ruling-kafkaesque/article27738677/

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Urgent Action Appeal for Abuse Survivor Facing Possible Extradition to USA and 33 Years Behind Bars



December 8, 2015
Urgent Action Appeal for Abuse Survivor Facing Possible Extradition to USA and 33 Years Behind Bars

Friends,

Earlier today, Canada's new Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, launched a long-awaited process to develop an inquiry into the thousands of murdered and missing Indigenous women.  Ms. Wilson-Raybould has spoken numerous times about the need to respect the rights of and support women who have been the targets of male violence. These are both very refreshing signs.

However, on Friday of this week, a case will pass by her desk that could determine whether a female Canadian abuse survivor gets sent to the United States to face a possible 33 years in prison,  even though her only "crime" was in choosing to live and to protect herself and her children from physical, psychological, and emotional abuse.

MM (whose name cannot be revealed because of a publication ban) is charged with child abduction even though, as a provincial court has found, “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.”

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.” No jury reasonably instructed in Canada would convict her, the judge concluded in dismissing the case.

Unfortunately, Canada's Justice Dept. (under Stephen Harper) appealed this decision and won based on very narrow technical grounds related to the Extradition Act. The case will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court on Friday morning (December 11).

If MM wins, the case will be reconsidered. If she loses, the Justice Minister has one of two choices: to surrender MM to the U.S., forcing her children into foster care or, alternatively, to determine that surrender would shock the conscience of Canadians and should be denied.

If your conscience is shocked that someone in MM's shoes faces being sent to the USA for saving the lives of her children, please send a quick email (details below).

ACTION
1. PLEASE email the Minister of Justice, the Parliamentary Secretary for Justice, and the International Assistance Group (which advises the Minister of Justice on such cases) at the following emails (this can be one email addressed to all three): Jody.Wilson-Raybould@parl.gc.ca, Cdncentralauthority@justice.gc.ca, Sean.Casey@parl.gc.ca  Let them know that regardless of Friday's court decision, the potential extradition of MM shocks your conscience and should be turned down. Please put  "MM Case" or "Please do not Extradite MM" in the subject line.

2. Learn more about this case at  http://womenwhochoosetolive.blogspot.ca/2015_06_01_archive.html

Thank you

Matthew Behrens
(on behalf of the Women Who Choose to Live campaign)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A TALE OF TWO TERRORS


Basil Borutski's rampage took place 11 months to the day Michael Zehaf-Bibeau stormed Parliament Hill, but unlike that shooting there have been no marquee events by federal leaders calling for a national action plan on violence against women
BY MATTHEW BEHRENS OCTOBER 4, 2015 (NOW Magazine)

Eleven months to the day Michael Zehaf-Bibeau went hunting for targets in Ottawa – killing ceremonial guard Nathan Cirillo at the national war monument – another lone gunman was on the loose in Eastern Ontario, murdering three women as Renfrew County was set to host its annual Take Back The Night march.

As happened during the Parliament Hill shooting, schools, courthouses, and other public institutions were on lockdown in a number of Ottawa Valley communities on September 22. Heavily-armed police searched for and eventually arrested a suspect (Basil Borutski) in the targeted killings of Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton. All were reportedly former partners of Borutski who, according to published reports, has a lengthy criminal record (including past charges involving two of the women).

Both gunmen caused panic. And both were banned from possession of firearms, although both managed to get their hands on weapons. But that’s where the similarities end.


After he emerged from the closet in which he had hidden last fall, Stephen Harper immediately invoked the Zehaf-Bibeau shooting – which, despite considerable disagreement, he insisted was a terrorist attack – as a rationale for introducing Bill C-51 and for bombing ISIS, both costly initiatives that most critics agree fail to address the root causes of terrorism.

Harper then used Cirillo’s funeral and subsequent Remembrance Day ceremonies as PR opportunities to further his fear agenda. Yet, in Renfrew County, where friends and neighbours continue reeling from the devastating aftermath of what anti-violence workers are calling “intimate terrorism,” there was no visit from the PM to join in the candlelight vigils, no prime ministerial eulogies at the funerals of the three women and no telegrams of condolence from the PMO condemning such acts of terror. There was no mention of the tragedy at all on the campaign trail.

The emotional damage to the rural area around Wilno, Ontario, where everyone knows everyone else – Kuzyk’s face was recognized on real estate signs throughout the county – was akin to that following a natural disaster. But the silence of leaders who would normally offer words of condolence or visit a stressed region (as Harper did earlier in the campaign during the BC forest fires and after the death of Alberta toddler Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette before one of the federal debates) was palpable.

Borutski’s rampage took place 12 hours after what was supposed to have been a federal leaders’ debate on women’s issues sponsored by Up For Debate, an alliance of more than 175 women’s organizations that was looking forward to the first such electoral gathering on the issue in 30 years.

But the debate was cancelled a month earlier when the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair refused to take part because Stephen Harper would be a no-show. In the end, Mulcair, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, the Greens’ Elizabeth May and Bloc head Gilles Duceppe each provided taped interviews. It was an unfortunate compromise given the powerful symbol of what could have been: federal leaders appearing on the same stage and publicly embracing the call for a national action plan to end violence against women and girls.

Such a plan was mandated by a United Nations in 2006, but despite a 2015 deadline for implementation, Canada has failed to move an inch on the issue.

The Harper government has been similarly recalcitrant on another UN recommendation related to violence against women: an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women (currently numbering at least 1,200).

The murders in Renfrew follow a similar targeting of three women in Winnipeg in July, in which a disgruntled man mailed letter bombs to his ex-spouse and two lawyers involved in their divorce proceedings. One of the packages blew off lawyer Maria Mitousis’s right hand, causing other serious injuries to her chest, face, and thighs. Combined with annual reports on femicide in Canada, they are gut-wrenching reminders of how little has actually been done on the issue of violence against women.

Indeed, when the Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses prepared its own action blueprint earlier this year with input from organizations across the country, it reminded us that “the current response to violence against women has failed to significantly lower the levels of violence” over the past two decades in Canada.

The statistics they cite bear this out. On any given night, 4,600 women and 3,600 children are forced to sleep in emergency shelters due to violence. During one single day snapshot of shelters across Canada, some 379 women and 215 children were turned away from already full shelters, according to the report.

It also notes that of some 460,000 victims of crime seen by victim services organizations in Canada in 2011-12, 84 per cent of women were receiving treatment because of a violent offence, 30 per cent were related to sexual assault, with 61 per cent reporting violence at the hands of a current or former spouse or other family member. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg since only about 10 per cent of such assaults are reported.

The Alberta Council for Women’s Shelters asked the federal parties to outline how they would establish a national action plan to address issues of violence against women. Predictably, the Conservatives did not respond. The NDP, Greens and Liberals all endorsed platforms that appear to have taken note of the blueprint. The Greens provided the most detail, including a promise to increase shelter and sexual assault centre funding, while the NDP, short on specifics, nonetheless committed to “dedicated funding and clear benchmarks.”

The blueprint lamented that responses to violence against women in Canada are “largely fragmented, often inaccessible, and can work to impede rather than improve women’s safety.”

Those words certainly ring true in Renfrew, where many locals have publicly stated their belief that better coordination and communication could have prevented September’s targeted killings.

Indeed, Borutski has a lengthy record of assault, breach of parole, and stints in jail.

One of the women victims carried a panic button used by survivors of intimate partner violence, and all had expressed their fear of Borutski.

Significant questions remain unanswered: were the women warned when he was released from prison last December? Why was it so easy for him to return to the very community where his presence prompted real fears? Why, as CBC reported, was he released despite refusing to sign a probationary order not to contact Kuzyk? Why was it so easy for someone with such a lengthy record of violence to obtain a gun?

 Some of the answers to these questions may come out in a trial, but they will be too late for three women who were simply trying to go about their daily lives.

Whether their loss will be a factor that propels the next Canadian government to a clear plan on ending such violence may become clearer after the ballots are counted on October 19, but based on their disturbing silence after the Wilno shootings, it seems doubtful.