February 24, 2021
On February 18, 2021, a jury found Bradley Barton guilty of manslaughter for the 2011 killing of Cindy Gladue. Ms. Gladue bled to death as a result of a wound inflicted upon her by Mr. Barton.
This was Mr. Barton’s second trial. In the initial 2015 trial, the jury accepted the defence argument that Ms. Gladue had consented to “rough sex” and acquitted Mr. Barton.
The 2015 trial failed to uphold Ms. Gladue’s dignity and humanity. Racist and sexist stereotypes about Indigenous women consistently influenced and pervaded the proceedings.
This dehumanization of Ms. Gladue is unavoidably connected to the fact that Indigenous women are disproportionately targeted for violence in Canada. The treatment of Ms. Gladue in this case also raised issues around the law of consent, the treatment of Indigenous women by the criminal justice system, and violence against women in general.
Led by the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW), LEAF and IAAW intervened in appeals of this decision before the Alberta Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.
In 2019, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a judgment ordering a new trial for Mr. Barton on the charge of manslaughter. The Court strongly condemned the use of racist and sexist stereotypes about Indigenous women. The judgment also encouraged trial judges to explicitly counter prejudice against Indigenous women and girls in their instructions to juries.
The efforts of Indigenous women, feminist legal interveners, and community advocates was fundamental to the Supreme Court’s recognition of this atrocity. We also acknowledge the efforts which continued through the new trial, including those of IAAW.
Significant work, however, remains to be done to end the violence faced by Indigenous women. Far too many Inquiries and previous court decisions have failed to achieve substantive equality for Indigenous women. Moving forward, LEAF will continue to ally itself with Indigenous women and feminists, and advocate for an end to sexism, racism, and anti-Indigeneity.
We encourage you to read IAAW’s statement in response to the outcome of the new trial.