Dawn Walker and her seven-year-old son, Vincent Jansen, have been located alive in Oregon after illegally entering the U.S., according to police.
“Both are reported to be safe and well. Agency representatives are currently working out the details of arranging for their return to Canada,” a press release from the Saskatoon Police Service said.
They said the mother-son duo were located late Friday morning in collaboration with the United States Department of Homeland Security.
Officials are still working out how to return Jansen to a legal guardian while Walker is in custody.
“U.S. authorities are considering the implications and any potential action as a result of an illegal entry into the US. Pending any action by U.S. authorities Dawn Walker will be returned to Saskatoon to meet with investigators,” police said.
Walker’s mother said she was elated to hear her daughter and grandson were found safe.
“Our prayers have been answered. The past 15 days have been extremely difficult on our family and community. We are extremely thankful to all those who helped with the search efforts …” said Theresa Walker in a written statement. “… we will continue to support [Walker] through this future challenge.”
A mysterious disappearance
Walker, 48-year-old member of the Okanese First Nation, was first reported missing to police on July 24 after her friends and family hadn’t heard from her — a behaviour described as out of character. She had been last seen on July 22 at a business on the 300 block of Owen Manor in Saskatoon.
On July 25, police found Walker’s truck and other personal belongings at Chief Whitecap Park, just south of Saskatoon near the South Saskatchewan River. Police learned someone in the area had found Walker’s purse a couple of days earlier.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) repeatedly called on the public to help, and implored the police to conduct a thorough investigation. The father of the boy had also appealed to the public for help, “desperately begging” people to spread the word about his son’s disappearance.
Volunteers, family, friends and police spent days searching for Walker and her son in the Saskatoon area by land, air and water.
Even though Walker and her son have been found, Saskatoon police are still asking anyone with information related to this investigation to call their local police detachment or Crime Stoppers. Saskatoon police said that they will release more information on Monday.
‘Many complex issues’
Walker is the executive operating officer of the FSIN, the organization representing 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan. She is also a well-known author who was recently nominated for a national book award.
Spokespeople for the FSIN declined CBC’s request for an interview after Walker and her son were found, but the organization released a written statement.
“At FSIN we know why First Nations women go missing and recognize that there are many complex issues that surround their disappearances. This is clearly the case with Dawn and her son Vinnie, and we will be closely following the legal process with more details on this case eventually being made public,” said FSIN vice-chief Heather Bear.
On Friday afternoon, members of Jansen’s family updated their GoFundMe page that was raising money to help the missing persons search.
“Thanks everyone for your support! Our family is ecstatic and can’t wait so have Vinnie home!” it now reads.
They have halted new donations, capping the total raised at $46,575.
“After reimbursing outstanding poster costs and setting aside funds for a potential reward, we will decide on how to distribute the remaining funds to support efforts to find other missing children and support other families of missing children,” their statement said.