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Statement on Dawn Walker sentencing

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Return Our Children Home Canada was approached for comment on the sentencing of Dawn Walker for the abduction of her son. Here is our statement:

Return Our Children Home Canada is a group of Canadian parents whose children are victims of international parental child abduction. Approximately half of us are moms, and half are dads, representing about 50 abducted Canadian kids. For almost all of us, our cases continue to be unresolved years later. Many of us do not know how our children are doing or even where they are. Harbouring countries often consider parental abductions to be family matters and do not take action to protect the child.

Despite a clear need, Canada does not have an equivalent mechanism to the USA’s Goldman Act which provides specific escalations for cases that are not resolved within a year. Fortunately for the child in this case, both Canada and the US consider child abduction to be an urgent matter and enacted a return within a few weeks. In many other parts of the world, a successful abduction can mean the end of parenthood for the left-behind parent. Those of us in that situation suffer tremendously and may never have closure.

Sentencing must put the child’s best interests foremost, and we hope that both parents in this case are able to do the same in order for the child to have meaningful, supportive, healing relationships with both parents and a return to as normal a childhood as is possible. This will require tremendous forgiveness on the father’s part, and true contrition and change from the mother. The government will need to ensure that the child is protected from further escalation, recognizing the trajectory of the mother’s actions leading up to the abduction.

The mother’s actions were criminal, premeditated, and unjustified by her own admission, but it is likely that a jail sentence would have represented yet another trauma for a child who has already been through too much. We hope that the intention beneath the sentence is one of restorative justice.

Nonetheless, Return Our Children Home Canada is concerned that a sentence as lenient as this may send the message to others that the risk is worthwhile. It is not, and the primary victim is always the child.

Submitted: November 4, 2023