Mom Commits Suicide Rather than Face Life without Children
"I might never see my children again if I'm prosecuted under a very aggressive judicial system in the States…They cannot extradite a corpse."
Michele, shortly before taking her life in jail while awaiting extradition
“Michele knew with certainty in her soul that she would not receive a fair trial, would be housed indefinitely in a private, for-profit prison, and would serve long years for an alleged offence that provided her no proper defence in Georgia.”
Matthew Behrens, refugee advocate
Michele feared never seeing her children again if extradited from Canada to U.S. on charges of interfering with custody/abducting her children. She was facing a long prison term in Georgia for “abduction”.
Michele had just been arrested and was being readied for extradition when she was found dead in her jail cell of an apparent suicide.
Michele had made it clear she may commit suicide if extradited, saying, “You can’t extradite a corpse.” But this made no difference to authorities. The Supreme Court, in a hotly contested decision, voted 4 to 3 to approve extradition, with the dissenting jusices calling that decision “kafkaesque”.
The Canadian Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould could have stopped the extradition but did not. She had agreed to review the case after an intense social media campaign, which The Women’s Coalition took part in, however, she eventually allowed for the extradition. She has recently resigned amidst a scandal.
Fortunately the case took a long time to wind its way through all the different courts and appeals and her children are now adults, so they cannot be forced to return to their abusive father in Georgia. So the good news is that she was successful in protecting her children, even though she lost her life doing it.
Family Court in Georgia gave sole custody of her three children to their abusive father. The children ran away from his house at ages 9, 10 and 14 and Michele took them to her native Canada.
Her case got a lot of attention and support there and a social media campaign followed. Matthew Behrens, a refugee advocate, covered her case.
FOLLOWING are excerpts from Matthew’s final report on Michele’s case:
The last three weeks of 58-year-old single mother and abuse survivor Michele M's life were spent on the run from a multi-generational history of male violence against women and children.
Despite having saved herself and her children nine years ago from an abusive ex-spouse, Michele was treated as a serious criminal by a Canadian state that, despite white ribbons and feminist window dressing, refused to acknowledge and believe the well-established history of abuse she and her children had suffered.
While it was reported that Michele took her own life the evening of November 5 at the notorious Leclerc prison, it would be more accurate to conclude that her life had been stolen from her long ago by male abusers, police, judges, social services agents, media, and a system that refuses to believe or understand the reality of male violence against women. While Michele had tried with the greatest of dignity to win back piece after piece of her life through the years, she tragically ran out of hope three weeks after the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear her appeal for a second time.
A former U.S. resident, Michele had been sought since 2010 for extradition from Canada to the state of Georgia to face trial for the alleged crime of interstate interference with custody.
… Rather than report for custody last month, she went on the run from a forced return to the state of Georgia where, like every other U.S. jurisdiction, "domestic violence survivors have been criminalized, prosecuted, and imprisoned for acts carried out by their abusive partners. Often, these were actions that they either knew nothing about or were powerless to stop. But at trial, their experiences of abuse are often downplayed or outright dismissed."
In the end, the RCMP tracked her down and arrested her in Quebec after Michele spent two weeks resisting surrender to prison. Her life ended four days later.
… "Why, why, why why, why do they keep doing this to me?" she would plead with me. "Why isn't he in jail?" she asked, referencing the abusive ex-spouse who had repeatedly told the children that his goal was to see Michele either jailed for life or six feet under. Much as she feared more jail and more courts, she ultimately feared seeing him again.
… I last spoke with Michele the day before she was discovered without vital signs in her jail cell. She had been arrested the previous Friday after a frantic two-week journey. She had refused to report to prison, and an arrest warrant went out for her.
An act of institutional femicide: remembering the life of Michele M
Supreme Court Orders Extradition to U.S. on "Kidnapping" Charges: Faces 15 Years Behind Bars
Dissenting Female Justices Call Ruling "Kafkaesque"
Christmas Victory for Hunger Striking Mom in Canadian Prison!
Cindy Dumas, M.A. has been researching, writing, and raising awareness about the Custody Crisis since 2003, when she was unable to protect her children from their abusive father. She fled into hiding when Family Court failed her and was tricked into returning home, when her children were given to their abusive father.