‘All the el­e­ments of prej­u­dice and dis­crim­i­na­tion’

The case that shocked the coun­try with de­tails of an Indige­nous woman found mu­ti­lated in an Ed­mon­ton mo­tel is headed to the high­est court in Canada


Hear­ing has ‘huge im­pli­ca­tions’ for the jus­tice sys­tem, for Indige­nous peo­ples and for women in Canada thes­tar.com

Warn­ing: This story con­tains graphic de­scrip­tions of vi­o­lence.

A case that shocked the coun­try with grisly de­tails about an Indige­nous woman found mu­ti­lated in an Ed­mon­ton mo­tel is headed to the high­est court in Canada on Thurs­day.

Cindy Gladue was found dead at the Yel­low­head Inn af­ter bleed­ing out in a bath­tub from an 11cen­time­tre wound to her vagi­nal wall in 2011.

Her ac­cused killer, Bradley Bar­ton, said the wound was in­flicted from “con­sen­sual rough sex.”

He was found not guilty in a stun­ning ac­quit­tal. The Al­berta Court of Ap­peal or­dered a re­trial in 2015, a de­ci­sion Bar­ton is now ap­peal­ing.

Indige­nous women, ac­tivists and com­mu­nity mem­bers from across the coun­try will be watch­ing the hear­ing closely.

Muriel Stan­ley Venne, pres­i­dent and founder of the In­sti­tute for the Ad­vance­ment of Abo­rig­i­nal Women, is in Ot­tawa to speak as an in­ter­vener at the Supreme Court of Canada hear­ing.

She says the hear­ing has “huge im­pli­ca­tions” for the jus­tice sys­tem, for Indige­nous Peo­ples and for women in Canada.

“We’ve been strug­gling for decades to get at­ten­tion paid to the death of our women,” she said.

“In this case, there’s all the el­e­ments of prej­u­dice and dis­crim­i­na­tion and a cav­a­lier way of deal­ing with things, with no thought given to the feel­ings of the com­mu­nity. All of that is in this case and it’s brought out in clear form.”

“She was ut­terly de­hu­man­ized both in the treat­ment she re­ceived from Bar­ton and in the treat­ment she re­ceived from the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, the vi­o­lence the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem en­acted upon her,” said Julie Kaye, ad­viser for the In­sti­tute for the Ad­vance­ment of Abo­rig­i­nal Women.

Bar­ton, an On­tario trucker who made his liv­ing mov­ing fur­ni­ture across Canada, was first charged with first-de­gree mur­der in con­nec­tion to Gladue’s death on June 23, 2011.

He stands 6-foot-1 and weighed 220 pounds.

Gladue, 36, a pe­tite woman at 5-foot-5, weigh­ing half as much as Bar­ton, was found dead in a blood-smeared bath­tub in Bar­ton’s ho­tel room one day ear­lier. Court heard Gladue had a po­ten­tially in­ca­pac­i­tat­ing level of al­co­hol in her sys­tem.

In a rare move, a judge al­lowed the Crown to bring Gladue’s pre­served pelvic tis­sue into the court­room as ev­i­dence, caus­ing na­tional out­rage.

At trial, Bar­ton ad­mit­ted to caus­ing Gladue’s death but ar­gued it was an ac­ci­dent re­sult­ing from con­sen­sual sex when he thrust his fist into her vagina.

The Crown sug­gested a sharp ob­ject may have caused the cut.

In ei­ther case, Crown pros­e­cu­tors sug­gested Bar­ton would still be guilty of man­slaugh­ter be­cause he caused Gladue’s death in the course of a sex­ual as­sault.

But a jury found Bar­ton not guilty of first-de­gree mur­der and ac­quit­ted him of man­slaugh­ter.

A new trial was or­dered af­ter Al­berta’s Court of Ap­peal agreed the trial judge erred in in­struct­ing the jury and al­lowed ev­i­dence to be heard about Gladue’s sex­ual his­tory that opened the door for racist and sex­ist myths and stereo­types that could have clouded the ju­rors’ judg­ment.

“This case has re­vealed the in­escapable need in sex­ual of­fences to prop­erly warn ju­rors to dis­re­gard un­fair as­sump­tions and to en­sure that jury in­struc­tions ad­e­quately and ac­cu­rately re­flect the cur­rent law in Canada,” wrote Chief Jus­tice Cather­ine Fraser, Jus­tice Jack Wat­son and Jus­tice Sheila Martin in a de­ci­sion giv­ing rea­sons for their call for Bar­ton’s re­trial.

“The courts can­not per­mit this to go on,” the de­ci­sion con­cluded. “We must cor­rect this. And we will.”

Dur­ing the trial, Gladue was re­ferred to as a “pros­ti­tute” 25 times and as a “na­tive” 26 times.

“Rather than re­fer­ring to her by name, she was re­ferred to as ‘na­tive girl,’ ‘na­tive woman,’ as a ‘pros­ti­tute.’ These are very de­hu­man­iz­ing ways to re­fer to some­body, a per­son,” said Kaye.

Venne, who has been a hu­man­rights ac­tivist for some 40 years, called the Cindy Gladue case a “pin­na­cle” in her quest for jus­tice.

Venne be­lieves the hear­ing will be prece­dent set­ting.

“It’s an op­por­tu­nity for Canada and the prov­inces, and ev­ery cit­i­zen and ev­ery woman in this coun­try, to re­al­ize that if the Bradley Bar­ton ac­quit­tal stands, they are in jeop­ardy,” she said.

“This is an op­por­tu­nity that was never be­fore given to us, as a coun­try, as the cit­i­zens of Canada, to do the right thing.”


Protesters show sup­port for Cindy Gladue dur­ing an Ed­mon­ton rally in 2015.

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