Lawyer for Saskatoon mom accused of parental abduction raises considerations about detention

A lawyer for a Saskatoon mother accused of abduction in contravention of a custody order raised concerns during her first court appearance around the conditions in which she was held this weekend.

Chris Murphy, appearing as an agent for the woman’s lawyer, Marie Henein, told court he sent Saskatoon Police Chief Troy Cooper a letter about his concerns.

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The woman arrived in Saskatoon on Friday and was turned over to the custody of the Saskatoon Police Service at 4 pm

The woman and her son were reported missing on July 24 and found in Oregon on Aug. 5.

The woman remained in US custody until last week, where she faces charges related to false statements in the use of a passport identifying another person and possession of an identification document that is stolen or produced without lawful authority.

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Global News is not naming the woman due to a publication ban put in place Monday.

In a statement shared with Global News, Henein said her client has “first-hand knowledge” of experiences Indigenous people in Canada face.

“Including what she knows of the Saskatchewan police and their shameful treatment of Indigenous communities — (the defendant) nonetheless sought help and refuge through official channels in Saskatchewan,” Henein wrote.

She added that the system failed her client.

In a statement shared with The Canadian Press, the woman said “nothing was done” after she reported domestic abuse to police and child protection authorities.

Saskatoon police have previously said they investigated the woman’s complaints in the past and a Crown review of the investigations was conducted.

“(The defendant’s) voice will not be silenced. While it is trite for defense counsel to say that the case will be vigorously defended, in (the defendant’s) case truer words could not be uttered,” Henein wrote.

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Murphy said the woman was not transferred to Pine Grove Correctional Centre, a women’s jail when she returned to Saskatoon on Friday. Instead, she spent three nights in a five-foot-by-six-foot cell with a concrete bench.

Murphy said she was not provided with a blanket, mattress or a pillow. She did not have access to fresh air and did not have a toothbrush or toothpaste.

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She was not provided access to a shower until Monday morning.

“Importantly, she was not provided with a privacy blanket with which to cover herself when she goes to the washroom. And there’s an approximate two-foot-by-two-foot window on the cell that people passing by can look into,” Murphy said.

Saskatoon police confirmed they are aware of Murphy’s concerns.

“The SPS Detention Unit is not a provincial remand unit, but when necessary is required to hold people in cells over weekends until they are able to see a Judge or a Justice of the Peace who will consider the question of their release,” spokesperson Alyson Edwards said.

Edwards said there is a dedicated wing for women who are in custody. Female staff are on duty to respond to any needs and the unit is also staffed 24 hours a day by paramedics.

“Beds in the unit are heated, raised permanent structures. Sheets only are provided. Special dietary needs are taken into account if they are declared and, when staffing allows it, showers are facilitated,” Edwards added.

Edwards said toothbrushes are not provided because of safety concerns.

The woman’s family says they are disappointed the Crown was opposed to her release.

“She’s not a danger to society. She’s an Indigenous woman. She’s a mother that wants to be with her son,” the woman’s sister said.

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The family was also upset to find out the conditions their family member was held in over the weekend.

“It’s horrible treatment from day one and it’s just continuing. But we’re here — we’re watching. We’re going to do everything we can to fight for her and to ensure that she does receive justice,” the accused’s sister added.

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Court was nearly full Monday morning as the woman made her first appearance, wearing a green T-shirt. Her family waved to her from the gallery.

“She was appearing emotionless. I think she was putting on a strong face for everyone — that was my sense,” the woman’s sister added.

The woman remains in custody and will be transferred to Pine Grove Correctional Center on Monday.

She also faces a charge of public mischief.

She is scheduled to make her next court appearance on Sept. 2 at 1 pm

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