March 8, 2018, Edmonton/Toronto – The Supreme Court of Canada released its decision today to grant Bradley Barton leave to appeal the ABCA decision ordering a new trial in R. v. Barton. Given the strong and unanimous decision of the ABCA, IAAW and LEAF are surprised by the decision to grant leave. We will work together to press for the rights of Cindy Gladue and of all Indigenous women.

The ABCA clearly determined that Bradley Barton’s acquittal for the murder of Cindy Gladue resulted from judicial error and from the influence of discrimination myths in the trial process. At the trial, the jury accepted the defence argument that Ms. Gladue, a Cree woman, had consented to “rough sex” and that her death was an accident.

In our submission to the court, IAAW and LEAF argued that the trial judge erred in admitting evidence of Ms. Gladue’s sexual history into the trial and that he failed to properly instruct the jury on the law of consent. These judicial errors allowed prejudice to infect the trial proceedings, raising discriminatory myths about Indigenous women and consent based on sexual history. In addition, the judge failed to adequately inform the jury that consent to a given form of sexual touching does not extend to the use of any conceivable degree of force by one’s sexual partner.

At the Supreme Court, IAAW and LEAF will seek leave to ensure significant elements of the law regarding sexual assault are upheld in Canada. According to Lise Gotell, Chair of LEAF National, “This is a critical case in which women’s bodily integrity and the rights of Indigenous women are at stake. We will seek leave to intervene in an effort to convince the Court that the scope of consent must necessarily involve agreement to the level of force.”

The dehumanization of Ms. Gladue epitomized by this trial is unavoidably connected to the fact that Indigenous women are disproportionately targeted for violence in Canada. In light of the treatment of Cindy Gladue, Angela Cardinal, and far too many others, IAAW and LEAF declared, “relations between Indigenous women and the criminal justice system are in crisis.”

The Supreme Court of Canada has already recognized the dire effects of racism, sexism, and class-based discrimination in criminal trials. “We will continue to work to intervene and add to this already substantial body of evidence” states Julie Kaye, IAAW Research Advisor. IAAW President Muriel Stanley Venne says “the dehumanization of Cindy Gladue was a breaking point for many of us. We will continue ongoing efforts to ensure the criminal justice system stops perpetuating violence against Indigenous women.”

LEAF and IAAW are proud to have been represented by Lisa Weber of Weber Law Group in the appeal. For more information about our intervention in this case, please see our factum.

About the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW)

For the past 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.

For media inquiries:

Lise Gotell, Chair, LEAF National
789-297-0326, [email protected]

Muriel Stanley Venne, IAAW, President and Founder
780.887.3115, [email protected]

Julie Kaye, Resarch Advisor, IAAW
306-880-2910, [email protected]