New chapter in custody battle

Dawson goes missing with young son

The Daily News (Halifax)/March 30, 1992
By Rob Roberts

Parent's rights activist Edward "Isaac" Dawson is back in conflict with authorities over his young son. New Minas RCMP said yesterday Dawson, of the Myrtle Tree Farm commune in Waterville, has ignored a March 18th court order granting weekend custody of nine-year-old Michael to Dawson's ex-wife, Judy Seymour.

Dawson - who was jailed for 23 days in January 1988 for refusing to co-operate with the seizure of his son on what turned out to be unfounded charges of physical abuse - has now gone missing with Michael.

"We've got stuff to charge him with under the Criminal Code," RCNIP Const. Wendell Murchison said yesterday. "I'd like to give him a chance to come back."

Weekend custody

Murchison said he plans a trip to Myrtle Tree this week. If Dawson can't be found, he said he will talk to regional Crown attorney Jack Buntain about getting a warrant for Dawson's arrest.

Seymour sought weekend custody after returning to the Annapolis Valley earlier this year, Murchison said. Family court Chief Judge Marshall Black granted Seymour interim weekend custody on March 13, then permanent weekend custody five days later, Murchison said.

Dawson, 37, did not attend the custody hearing, although Murchison said he was served a summons to attend. When the Mounties sought to serve him with the permanent order, commune residents said he had left, Murchison said.

"If we believe what the community at Myrtle Tree Farm says, he's away visiting friends and they don't know when he'll come back," Murchison said.

Myrtle Tree spokesman Denis Julian said yesterday he has not seen Dawson for 14 or 15 days, perhaps longer.

"He left and there was no message," Julian told The Daily News.

The farm is one of several properties owned worldwide by the Vermont-based Northeast Kingdom Community Church, a fundamentalist Christian group [aka "The Communtiy" and "Twelve Tribes"] that distances itself from the outside world.

The church favors corporal punishment as a child-rearing tool, and has received a lot of bad press and several criminal prosecutions.

Murchison said the new Dawson case is similar to the case of church member Stephen Wootten, who has been charged in Vermont with custodial interference with his two sons.

Hit son's hand

Tom Watts, executive director of the Pennsylvania-based Children's Rights Investigation Bureau, is looking into the Wootten case and told The Daily mews he would help look for Dawson and his son in the U.S. Once a warrant is obtained.

"We have people up there (in Vermont) looking for them now," Watts said.

After his time behind bars, Dawson become a vocal advocate for parent's rights. He and Jean Swantko, a commune member and its lawyer, testified in May 1990 at legislature hearings on Bill 89, the province's new child-protection law.

Dawson's son was seized from him Sept. 24, 1987, after a court hearing at which Dawson testified he hit Michael on the hand with a slim rod in disciplinary matters.

On Oct. 27, the boy was ordered into the temporary custody of his mother, then living in Montreal. Michael was returned to his father's care, but the custody dispute continues and Edward Dawson was ordered jailed indefinitely whet he refused to give the whereabouts of his son.


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