Cindy Gladue died on June 22, 2011 in an Edmonton motel bathtub. Her grieving family, including three daughters, continue to mourn her death. While their grief is personal, their story is public. The court case and the verdict continue to generate ripples of shock, protest, and action in community circles and the justice system.
Bradley Barton, the man accused of causing her death, was acquitted of first degree murder in March, 2015. The Crown Prosecution Office filed an Appeal within the month. The Appeal was heard over a year later in September 6, 2016.
The Appeal decision was released June 30, 2017. The verdict was overturned. In mid-August, Barton turned himself in and was released with strict bail conditions. The second trial begins February 25, 2019.
There are several key points at stake in this new trial. One is about consent. An argument put forward was that Cindy Gladue died as a result of injuries during consensual sexual activity, as if this was her fault. There was also payment of money. Barton whittled her down from $100 to $60. Imagine how that felt.
Canada has strong laws on consent. Consent cannot be obtained if there is an abuse of position of power, trust, or authority, including social power such as having money or access to shelter. Barton had something Cindy Gladue needed: money. He had social power over her and he used it ruthlessly and carelessly, in my opinion. He has a family in Ontario. I would suggest that neither his family nor Cindy Gladue were of importance to him that fateful night. He wanted sex. He created grief.
Consent cannot be obtained if a person is impaired due to alcohol or drugs. Responsibility lies with the person pursuing sex. They need to make sure that the other person is not too drunk to consent. Cindy Gladue’s blood alcohol limit was four times the legal limit. Did she have the capacity to consent to the sexual activity that caused her death?
Other key points are that Cindy Gladue was frequently referred to as a “prostitute” and “native” throughout the trial. Is it possible that these two descriptors seeded discrimination in the minds of the jurists?
If Cindy Gladue’s heritage needs to be referenced, the more respectful term “Indigenous” should be used.
The Criminal Code of Canada struck the term “prostitute” from the Code in 2014. It is a hurtful, stigmatizing, and blaming term. There should be no use of this term in the new trial.
Kate Quinn is the Executive Director of the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE).