The month-long jury trial was the second for Bradley Barton, an Ontario truck driver, who was charged in June 2011 with the murder of Ms. Gladue, a woman whose human dignity was violated in the 2015 trial proceedings through the use of presumptions concerning her vocation, racist remarks concerning her Indigeneity, and sexist language diminishing her as a woman. The culmination of violation though was the introduction of Ms. Gladue’s body parts into the courtroom as evidence – something so barbaric and a first in the history of criminal trial procedures in so-called civilized society. The way Ms. Gladue was dehumanized in so many dimensions during the 2015 trial was seen by the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW) as a clear example of how Indigenous women are disproportionately targeted for violence in Canada.
Following Barton’s acquittal in 2015, public outrage erupted across Canada, protesting what was perceived to be the criminal justice system’s condonement of violence against Indigenous women.
The IAAW lobbied vigorously and, along with another women’s advocacy group (Women’s Legal and Education Action Fund), successfully gained intervenor status in the Crown’s appeal of Barton’s acquittal to the Alberta Court of Appeal. As co-intervenors, IAAW and LEAF argued that judicial errors allowed prejudice to infect the trial proceedings, raising discriminatory myths about Indigenous women and consent based on sexual history. The Court of Appeal’s ruling in 2017 recognized that “myths and stereotypes continue to stalk the halls of justice in cases involving sexual offences”, and that, as a result of significant judicial errors, a retrial was ordered.
Barton subsequently appealed the Court of Appeal’s decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, but the Supreme Court agreed with the Alberta Court of Appeal and upheld the order that Barton be retried for killing Cindy Gladue. The Court gave clear direction that
all participants within the criminal justice system should take reasonable steps to address systemic biases, prejudices, and stereotypes, and that in sexual assault cases where the victim is an Indigenous woman or girl, trial judges would be well advised to provide an express instruction (to the jury) aimed at countering prejudice against Indigenous women and girls.
IAAW has continued to be involved with Ms. Gladue’s Mother, providing moral and legal support to her throughout the appeals and re-trial.
Lisa Weber, legal counsel for Ms. McLeod observed: “…while the re-trial proceedings seem to have eliminated [the legal consideration of] direct references to derogatory, sexist and racist myths and stereotypes against Indigenous women, it is disappointing to have observed instances where some of the same, and similarly inappropriate myths and stereotypes crept into the process at various points and in indirect ways.”
IAAW recognizes that the battle against sexism and racism against Indigenous women is a long and difficult struggle; this is the experience of so many, but we must continue to be ever vigilant to not accept such injustice. IAAW is thankful for the support that has been received in this important case, especially from those who see the negative impacts of myths and stereotypes on the lives of Indigenous women and girls, and who take a stand against such injustice.
While today’s verdict does not bring Cindy Gladue back to her family, we pray that at very least justice served toward the perpetrator who took her life brings them peace.
For media contacts or for more information contact:
Rachelle Venne, IAAW CEO
Ph: (587) 635 3046
Lisa D. Weber, President IAAW/Counsel for Donna McLeod
Ph: (780) 289-6365