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No time behind bars for woman who faked death, abducted son and fled country

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A Saskatoon woman accused of faking her own death, and the death of her son, has pleaded guilty to child abduction.

Dawn Walker, 49, also pleaded guilty to forging a passport, possessing a forged document and abduction in contravention of a custody or parenting order. Six other charges were stayed.

She entered her guilty pleas at Saskatoon provincial court on Thursday.

Judge Brad Mitchell accepted a joint-sentencing submission of 12-months, served in the community, following 18 months of probation.

In his sentencing decision, Mitchell said Walker intentionally misled the public.

“Ms. Walker had a well-conceived and well-organized plan that was carried out over the course of several months,” Mitchell said.

On July 24, 2022, Walker and her son were reported missing. The next day, a Saskatoon resident found Walker’s belongings and a broken fishing pole along the South Saskatchewan River.

After extensive searches, spanning 13 days, Walker and her seven-year-old were found safe at an Airbnb in Oregon City. Walker was arrested by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)on August 5, 2022.

According to a U.S. court affidavit filed by a DHS agent, Walker made a checklist before fleeing to Oregon — which included dying her hair and covering her tattoo. According to the agreed statement of facts, the DHS found a fake COVID-19 vaccination status and a falsified letter from Piapot First Nation certifying her membership

Court heard Walker used her friend and her friend’s daughter’s identity to apply for passports. Their names have been protected under a publication ban.

“She went into my personal space and took my identity,” Walker’s former friend wrote in a victim-impact statement.

The woman said she and her daughter now have trouble travelling, as a result of Walker’s identity theft.

The father of Walker's child told court how he was initially blamed.

“To hear that people thought that I was somehow involved in their disappearance was incredibly hurtful,” the father said, holding back tears.

“Police advised me to stay away from the primary search area since they were concerned for my safety ... I felt helpless that I was not able to search for my own son.”

He told court he feared for his family’s safety and they moved to a temporary location.

“Our address was posted online by people who don't know me, or the content of my character,” he told court.

He said their child is “the biggest victim in all of this.”

“When we got him home, it took some time to get him to adjust. He was paranoid about keeping the doors locked,” he said.

“We had to change schools, since the case was so public in nature, so he could have the chance to just be a kid — and not have to worry about fielding questions about his mom on the playground.”

According to an agreed statement of facts. before the abduction, Walker attempted to relocate with her son

The boy's father and Walker were in a relationship for four years, according to the agreed statement of facts. In 2018, they separated.

In 2020, Walker made allegations of sexual assault and emotional abuse to the Saskatoon Police Service and the RCMP. No charges were laid.

The next year, she shared concerns with the Ministry of Social Services about the safety of her son, while in his father’s care. The ministry investigated and did not take any action.

In December 2021, the boy's father and Walker entered into a shared parenting agreement. Walker did not raise issues of abuse at that point. Shortly after, she applied for a job in Ontario.

Walker applied for a new birth certificate in March 2021 under a different name and created a false treaty status card.

The boy's father called Walker’s abuse claims “particularly harmful.”

“I deny any allegations made and I continue to maintain that they were false allegations,” theboy's father told court.

Walker’s high-profile attorney, Marie Henein, told court Walker has a law degree, is an award-winning author and an advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The agreed statement of facts outlined how Walker felt that she could not trust the authorities to take her concerns seriously to protect herself and her son.

“This is a case, in my respectful submission, that requires the court to understand the context of the Indigenous experience, and in particular of Indigenous women, because only that fact explains the conduct of Ms. Walker,” Henein said.

“It is in fact the only rational explanation.”

Crown Prosecutor Tyla Olenchuk said Walker’s sentence “sends a message that the courts will not stand by and have people who are displeased or unhappy with how family law proceedings are going abscond with their children and take the law into their own hands.”

Court heard Walker has been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD.

Before the judge made his sentencing decision, he asked Walker if she had anything to say.

“I apologize to everyone who was concerned about my son’s wellbeing and my own” Walker said.

Court heard the resources to search for Walker and her son cost upwards of $100,000 and was especially difficult for family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls who volunteered in the search.

Walker called the abduction “a lapse of judgment.”

“I am truly sorry for my actions ... I can’t change what I did, but I will learn from it, grow from it and help others because of it,” Walker said.

As part of the sentence, Walker cannot have unsupervised contact with her son. 

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