The Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW) and the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) continue to seek justice for Cindy Gladue and will be watching as the Supreme Court of Canada releases its decision on Barton’s appeal Friday morning.
On May 24, 2019, the Supreme Court will release its decision on whether to uphold the unanimous Alberta Court of Appeal (ABCA) decision that ordered Bradley Barton be retried for the murder of Cindy Gladue. The Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW) and the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) await this critical decision affecting the law of consent, the mistreatment of Indigenous women by the criminal justice system, and the courts’ handling of the pervasive problem of violence against women. As longstanding advocate for the rights of Indigenous women and Order of Canada recipient Muriel Stanley Venne insists, “This is the most important case of my lifetime. As I sat in the Court, I could feel the cold indifference of this system that continues to persecute Indigenous women. The judge, the Crown, the defence, and the nine men and two women on the jury all sent the horrifying message that it’s okay to continue killing Indigenous women with impunity. We want to be treated as human beings.” There was no evidence presented at trial that Cindy Gladue consented to the sexual activity that caused her death.
IAAW and LEAF’s intervention at the Supreme Court of Canada reaffirmed our joint submissions at the ABCA that advocated for the rights of Cindy Gladue and all Indigenous women. In the trial, the judge erred in admitting evidence of Ms. Gladue’s sexual history, embedded with racist and sexist myths and stereotypes. “Members of the Court made every effort to dehumanize Cindy Gladue and brought racist, sexist, and stigmatizing stereotypes into the proceedings at every turn” says Julie Kaye, Research Advisor for IAAW. Failing to apply rape shield laws allowed prejudice to infect the trial proceedings.
Further, the trial judge did not properly instruct the jury on the law of consent. Representing LEAF, Lise Gotell comments, “Canadian law requires a careful analysis of whether there was agreement to engage in every sexual act performed.” The Supreme Court’s interpretation of consent in this case will affect all women, particularly Indigenous women who are disproportionately criminalized and victimized by Canada’s legal system.
Ms. Gladue was completely dehumanized during the trial process when a portion of her sexual organs — human remains — were brought into the court and treated as evidence and referred to as a “specimen.” Order of Canada recipient, Beverly Jacobs, who helped to develop our legal arguments, contends that, “the Court undermined her dignity, disrespected her family, disgusted and angered women across Canada, and ignored Indigenous laws on caring for the deceased.”
Sexual violence is a form of sexual inequality that is often exacerbated by intersecting forms of discrimination such as those based on race, class, and Indigeneity. LEAF and IAAW are committed to promoting the rights of Indigenous women to be free from violence and discrimination. It is of utmost importance that the Supreme Court issue a decision that challenges the degradation of, and lack of respect for, women’s bodies that was shown by both Bradley Barton and by the Canadian legal system. Cindy Gladue deserves justice. Her family and her children deserve justice.
For more information, please contact:
Beverly Jacobs, University of Windsor, Faculty of Law
519-253-3000 ext. 2963, [email protected]
Muriel Stanley Venne, IAAW, President and Founder
780-479-8195, [email protected]
Julie Kaye, Research Advisor, IAAW
306-880-2910, [email protected]
Lise Gotell, LEAF National
789-297-0326, [email protected]
About the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW)
For more than 20 years, IAAW has advanced the rights of Aboriginal women through advocacy, education, research and program development. IAAW is composed of First Nation and Metis Women dedicated to supporting other women in their journey to build individual and family capacity while supporting the development of healthy, safe and caring communities. For more information about IAAW, visit www.iaaw.ca.
About Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)
Since April 17, 1985, when equality rights were enshrined in sections 15 and 28 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, LEAF has worked toward equality for women and girls. LEAF intervenes in key cases to ensure that when courts interpret equality rights, there will be a systemic improvement in women’s lives. For more information about LEAF, visit www.leaf.ca.