The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) and the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW) argue for justice for Indigenous women at the Alberta Independent Review of Circumstances Surrounding the Treatment of “Angela Cardinal” in R. v. Blanchard

On October 15, 2017, LEAF and IAAW filed a joint submission with Alberta’s independent review of the circumstances surrounding the treatment of “Angela Cardinal”, an Indigenous woman and a survivor of a vicious sexual assault.

During the preliminary inquiry in R. v. Blanchard, the criminal proceedings against her attacker, the court remanded Ms. Cardinal into custody, forced her to testify in shackles, and transported her to and from court together with the accused. Following public outrage about Ms. Cardinal’s horrific treatment, the Alberta government commenced an Independent Review of these events.

LEAF and IAAW’s Arguments

In the joint submissions filed with the Independent Review, LEAF and IAAW draw attention to the systemic issues framing the inhumane treatment of Angela Cardinal and offer policy recommendations intended to prevent the recurrence of such treatment.

IAAW and LEAF submit that the social context of racism, colonialism, and sexism produce conditions of systemic and targeted forms of violence and abuse against Indigenous women. This context increases Indigenous people’s overrepresentation and unequal treatment in the criminal justice system, with particular implications for Indigenous women. An awareness of both Indigenous women’s inequality and Canada’s human rights obligations should be at the forefront of any decision making regarding Indigenous women in the criminal justice system, specifically with regard to Indigenous survivors of gendered violence.

LEAF and IAAW recommend that the Alberta government implement the following initiatives to ensure that Indigenous women are not subject to the horrific mistreatment that Ms. Cardinal endured:

  1. Initiate an Alberta Indigenous Justice Inquiry.
  2. Create an Indigenous human rights monitoring body.
  3. Relocate victim services to Indigenous-led community organizations.
  4. Include a practice memoranda specific to the issue of detainment, remand or incarceration of sexual assault complainants in the Crown Prosecutor’s Manual.
  5. Include a general sexual assault policy in the Crown Prosecutors’ Manual, which would contain directions to Crown Prosecutors responding to sexual assault complainants, including the protection of complainants’ equality and privacy rights.
  6. Amend Section 2 of the Victims of Crime Act to include the principles of equality and privacy rights for complainants.
  7. Provide independent legal representation to sexual assault complainants.
  8. Implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action on Justice.

The LEAF/IAAW submission, which provides more detail about these recommendations, is available here.

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

About the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Woman (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