One of Canada’s best-known defence lawyers says she will represent a Saskatoon woman accused of faking her own death, and that of her son, before they were found in Oregon earlier this month.
Marie Henein says she will act for Dawn Walker on her Canadian charges, which include public mischief and child abduction in contravention of a custody order.
Henein is one of the country’s most prominent defence lawyers, known for defending people in several high-profile cases, including Michael Bryant, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, and Jian Ghomeshi.
Walker also faces two charges in the United States related to identity fraud for allegedly crossing the border with fake identification, but earlier this week, an Oregon judge ordered Walker be returned to Canada to deal with her charges here.
Meanwhile, some of Walker’s family and friends say she will have her community’s support.
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 Walker’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.”
CBC News confirmed Thursday morning that Walker was in RCMP custody in Surrey, B.C. The details on transporting her back to Saskatoon were still in the works and a date for her first Canadian court appearance has not been set.
Police allege that Walker faked her death, and her son’s, prompting an extensive 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. Saskatoon police 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 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.”