Fugitive family A memoir of a bizarre childhood on the run across Canada
Pauline Dakin spent years as a fugitive. Without warning her mother would uproot the family and move. She learned it was because they were hiding from the Mafia. But years later she discovered the truth – and it was even more bizarre
Pauline Dakin was always aware her childhood was a long way from ordinary. Her parents, Warren and Ruth, separated when she was five – she knew her father had a drink problem and could be violent. Pauline, her mother and her little brother Ted moved around a lot. When Pauline was nine, her mother packed up a Volkswagen camper van in Vancouver for a holiday in Winnipeg, more than 1,000 miles away. When they got there, over a mug of cocoa, the children learned they were never going home.
“That summer of 1974 was the last time I thought of my family as having any relation to normal,” writes Pauline in her memoir, Run Hide Repeat . “The events that followed made Ted and I know we were different, somehow apart. Ted would sometimes, in the years that followed, refer to ‘normal families’. Not in a critical way, but in a straightforward acknowledgment that we were not one.”
Over seven years, Pauline attended six different schools. The next major relocation came when she was 13, when she was finally settled in a school she liked, had close friends and was starting to be interested in boys. This time, Ruth actually told them where they were going: all the way to New Brunswick, in the far east of Canada. Pauline and Ted were sworn to secrecy, but she broke ranks and told her best friend Wendy. When Ruth picked her up from Wendy’s house, the girls had to affect “breezy see-you-laters” so Pauline’s mother wouldn’t suspect.
Ruth promised her children that one day everything would be made clear. Why they couldn’t tell anyone where they were going on holiday. Why they couldn’t even say if they were going out for dinner. Pauline heard the brushoff, “I’ll explain when you’re older,” again and again. Then, when she was 23, her mother invited her to meet her at a motel – she was ready to talk. But the explanation would be far more complicated, and more terrifying, than she could ever have dreamed.
It was late February 1988, and when Pauline walked into the motel room with her mother, a man was waiting. Pauline knew him well: it was Reverend Stan Sears, a minister with the United Church who had been part of their lives since her parents separated. Even when they moved, Sears was never far behind. So it was a surprise, but not a total shock, when they told her that they were in love. For many years, they hadn’t acted on their attraction – Sears was married, for one thing – but now they agreed they wanted to live together.
A far more profound revelation was to come, however. Her mother and Sears explained that the reason the family had moved so often, so haphazardly, was that Warren, Pauline’s father, was a mobster, a key member of an organised crime syndicate in Vancouver. When they separated, Ruth had a contract put on her. Sears, meanwhile, had
Fugitive family: pictures of Pauline Dakin’s early life moving across Canada, with her brother Ted, mother Ruth and the charismatic Reverend Stan Sears