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Family, friends of Sask. woman accused of faking death and fleeing to U.S. say community will support her | CBC News

Family and friends of a Saskatchewan Indigenous woman arrested in the United States say she will have her community’s support upon her return to Canada.

Dawn Walker, 48, was to be handed to Canadian authorities Wednesday after spending two weeks in U.S. federal custody.

“It’s the best news ever really,” said Kathy Walker, Dawn’s younger sister.

“It’s truly an answer to our prayers and hopes. The battle’s not over, but just to know she’s no longer sitting in a U.S. jail is wonderful news.”

Police allege the Saskatoon woman faked her death and that of her son, prompting a two-week missing persons investigation before the pair were found in Oregon City, Ore., earlier this month.

At her detention hearing Tuesday in Oregon, U.S. federal public defender Megha Desai told court that Walker is a victim of domestic abuse and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The father of Walker’s son has told Saskatoon radio station CKOM that he would never hurt her or the boy. Police in the city have said any previous allegations made by Walker were investigated, but no charges were laid.

Eleanore Sunchild, a Saskatchewan lawyer and Walker’s friend, said her case is important because it highlights the challenges Indigenous women face when accessing the justice system.

This has also been documented in the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report and its calls to justice, Sunchild said.

The report says the Canadian legal system fails to adequately respond to intimate-partner crime against Indigenous women and girls.

“There are very real and systemic issues that this case raises that continues to call for action,” Sunchild said Wednesday from Saskatoon.

Walker is a member of Okanese First Nation, which is part of Treaty 4 in southern Saskatchewan. She is also a celebrated Indigenous author and had served as chief executive officer for the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations for 10 years.

Sunchild said Walker’s story has resonated with other women across Canada who have their own stories of abuse, and they will continue to support Walker as her case makes its way through the courts.

“I’m so happy that people were able to see Dawn’s point of view,” Sunchild said. “It’s really great to see people were supporting her and could relate to her story.”

Kathy Walker said her sister’s story is not unique, and women across Canada have been reaching out to her family.

“There’s so many mothers who have shared their stories … who have said they totally understand what Dawn has gone through,” Kathy Walker said. “She felt that was the only thing she could do to protect herself and her son.”

Walker, who still has a warrant for her arrest in Canada, will have to face criminal charges in Saskatoon once she is returned to law enforcement. Her Canadian charges include public mischief and child abduction in contravention to a custody order, while her two U.S. charges relate to identity fraud.

Despite the legal challenges ahead, having Walker back in Saskatchewan offers her family some relief.

“Not only does she have her family and friends supporting her, she also has a larger community of advocates and people who also share her story who are going to be there for her,” Kathy Walker said.

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