The day after International Human Rights Day, the case of single mother and Canadian abuse survivor MM (who cannot be publicly identified) will be heard at the Quebec Court of Appeal, in Montreal. The federal government is working to extradite MM to the U.S., where she could face decades behind bars for the alleged "crime" of saving her children from an abusive father.
Because MM has to spend time behind bars while the hearing takes place – despite faithfully adhering to house arrest restrictions for well over five years – supporters will be at the vigil and in court to express opposition to the notion that abuse survivors who choose to live or who intervene on behalf of others choosing to live should be criminalized and jailed.
After MM won her case 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. In December, 2015 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….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.”
Public pressure forced a reconsideration of her case under the Liberals, but they have decided to pursue the case based on remarkable misunderstandings of the reality of abuse survivors. Indeed, Minister of Justice Raybould-Wilson complains that – despite abundant evidence of the father's abuse of the children –– MM’s act of saving her kids and taking them to Canada “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 video statement on the case here: https://youtu.be/sJqo7S9VVqI )
Raybould-Wilson’s decision to pursue extradition also buys into oft-repeated myths about abuse survivors. For example, the Justice Minister casts doubt about the claims of abuse because the kids regularly attended school. In addition, Raybould-Wilson questions their abuse by refusing to accept the fact that the children were too afraid to report the father’s abuse to school officials or police. The decision further attacks MM for not speaking with police (how many violence survivors have heard that line?)
Supporters of MM ask why a federal government that prides itself as "feminist" and speaks of the courage of abuse survivors is putting this family through such a Kafkaesque nightmare, and calling for the Trudeau government to suspend the proceedings and allow MM to stay in Canada. No crime has been committed by MM. She was saving her children from a crime.
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