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Saskatoon police confirmed Ms. Walker (pictured) had made multiple allegations of domestic violence in reports to local authorities before allegedly faking her own death and that of her son.Kathy Walker/The Canadian Press

The case of Dawn Marie Walker – an Okanese Cree mother and celebrated author who was recently shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour – would be the perfect story for a TV drama, if it wasn’t so depressingly sad. It’s yet another illustration of an Indigenous woman struggling to be safe, and desperate to be heard, but left with nowhere to turn.

Ms. Walker has been accused of faking her own death and that of her seven-year-old son before fleeing her home in Saskatoon and heading across the border to Oregon in late July. Her pickup truck was discovered in a Saskatchewan park on July 25, with personal belongings scattered around it; after a cross-border search, both mother and son were found safe in Oregon City earlier this month. Ms. Walker was detained by U.S. authorities but was to be returned to Canada.

Now, I do not know what was going through Ms. Walker’s mind when, instead of returning her son to her former partner, she fled with him across the border. She has not yet told her story – something she must do upon her return.

Ms. Walker has, however, released a statement through her friend, Eleanore Sunchild, a prominent lawyer who visited her in the U.S. after she was found. “I left Saskatoon because I feared for my safety and that of my son,” she stated. “I am fighting systems that continuously fail to protect me as an Indigenous woman and protect non-Indigenous men. ... Saskatchewan and the systems within have failed Indigenous people since colonization.” In fleeing her home, Ms. Walker felt she “was left with no choice. No one heard me.”

Saskatoon police have confirmed Ms. Walker made multiple allegations of domestic violence in reports to local authorities. Deputy Police Chief Randy Huisman said the allegations were “thoroughly investigated,” with no charges laid.

In her view, Ms. Walker sought help from police but received none, Ms. Sunchild said on a recent episode of my podcast Auntie Up! It’s especially discouraging given that Ms. Walker is not a woman without resources. She was an executive for the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, or FSIN, and a former lawyer. Last year, she campaigned for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the Liberal candidate for the Saskatoon-University riding. This, despite Mr. Trudeau’s lousy record on fulfilling the calls for justice issued by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Even though she had access to many resources and people in positions of power, as an Indigenous woman, none of it mattered, not while race relations in Saskatchewan continue to exist in their ugly state. These dynamics cannot be overlooked or ignored when it comes to Ms. Walker’s story.

There are threads connecting Ms. Walker to the Saskatchewan stories of Colten Boushie and Colby Tootoosis. Ms. Sunchild also acted as a representative for the family of Mr. Boushie, the 22-year-old Red Pheasant First Nations man who was shot to death by Gerald Stanley on Mr. Stanley’s Saskatchewan farm in 2016. Mr. Stanley was acquitted of the shooting by what appeared to be an all-white jury. The verdict’s audacity mainly shocked those who are not Indigenous. For those who could see it coming, it was yet another example of Canada’s failed, racialized justice system – one perpetuated by colonial powers and upheld by police services.

“That was the failure of the justice system and the RCMP and it has not changed,” Ms. Sunchild said of Mr. Boushie’s case. “We can demand justice, jump up and down for it, but in the end, we are just Indians.”

What it means to be Indigenous in Saskatchewan was also on full display on July 17, when three white men confronted Mr. Tootoosis on Ms. Sunchild’s lawn. They accused him of stealing a pair of pants, while one used Mr. Tootoosis’s braid to hold him to the ground while assaulting him. The attack was captured on video, which she posted to social media. The FSIN called the attack racially motivated. A charge has been laid against just one of the three men involved.

The deeper current running beneath the stories of Ms. Walker, Mr. Boushie and Mr. Tootoosis is the need for Indigenous peacemaking to be made part of Canada’s justice system. Canada’s police system has not worked in favour of Indigenous people. Instead, it has met the legacy of generational trauma left by residential schools with brute force and decades of misunderstanding.

Everybody wants safety, security, love and community – not the mix of order, control and domination that currently characterizes police interactions with Indigenous people. Everyone needs someone to turn to.

It is time for a new model. We need widespread change, not more reports calling for police to participate in “reconciliation” events at powwows, or being given cultural competency training or hiring more Indigenous officers. That is not the answer to a long legacy of racism, violence and misogyny. Indigenous peacemaking practices deserve a place in Canada’s justice system.

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