TORONTO - A Canadian woman wanted in the United States on drug charges should be extradited even though it means leaving her toddler behind, Ontario's top court ruled on Tuesday.
In upholding the surrender order, the Court of Appeal rejected arguments from Joanna Pakulski that Canada's minister of justice had made mistakes.
"The minister concluded that the applicant's personal circumstances and the potential impact of her surrender on her child do not warrant refusing to honour Canada's obligations to the United States," the Appeal Court said in its decision.
"Her surrender would not be 'shocking to the Canadian conscience…or unjust or oppressive'."
American authorities allege that Pakulski, of Toronto, was involved in the cross-border conspiracy to traffic hundreds of kilograms of marijuana from Canada into the United States between 2003 and 2007. They say her role was to collect cash from sales and bring it back to Canada. In March 2008, Canadian border authorities found US$59,540 hidden in her car.
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RCMP arrested Pakulski in June 2010 at an American request and she was ordered extradited in July 2012. However, the Appeal Court in January last year asked the government to take another look at her case because she'd had a baby.
The government upheld the extradition order. Among other things, the justice minister rejected her arguments that turning her over to the U.S. would violate both her rights and those of her child.
Pakulski turned again to the Appeal Court, saying the minister had not taken into account the best interests of her toddler given that she is the sole caregiver.
The court would have none of it.
"In our view, the minister took account of the relevant considerations, and the applicant has failed to demonstrate that his conclusion was unreasonable," the justices said.
Among other things, the justices noted that Pakulski and her child were living in a unit rented from her mother and had stated she was "well supported by her mother…and several siblings," the court found.
"It was open to the minister to conclude that (her) surrender would not leave her child without the support and care of a family member," the court said.
The court also rejected her argument that she might be able to keep her child with her if imprisoned in Canada rather than in the United States.
Pakulski and two other Canadian residents were swept up in what American authorities described as the bust of an Albanian criminal gang called the Krasniqi Organization that involved murder, kidnapping, narcotics trafficking, extortion, robbery and arson. One of the accused gang members was said to be a top aide to the deputy prime minister of Albania.
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