It’s a community story, an Edmonton story, a national story. This story continues to raise outrage, increase awareness, clarify language terms, and question legal actions. The story contributes to the national dialogue around challenges facing Indigenous girls and women in their lives, in their deaths, and in the court room.
Cindy Gladue and her children lived in our core communities. They were neighbours. Her children attended local schools. Their lives became front page news when Ms. Gladue died in an Edmonton motel in 2011. The family endured the trial of Bradley Barton, The Alberta Court Appeal, and now the Supreme Court Appeal.
This Appeal was heard on October 11, 2018 with 16 Intervenors. Edmonton was well represented at the Appeal, through Dino Bottos for the Defence and Joanne Dartana, Director, Appeals, Alberta Justice and Solicitor General. The IAAW (Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women), based in Edmonton, partnered with LEAF (Legal Education and Action Fund).
CEASE was privileged to be part of the Women’s Coalition for Equality and Liberty along with EVE (formerly Exploited Voices now Educating), the Vancouver Rape Relief Society, Aboriginal Women’s Action Network, Asian Women for Equality Society, and LaCles (La Concertation de Luttes Contre L’exploitation Sexuelle).
Trisha Baptie, with EVE said, “Men are not buying consent, but compliance. (Women) will do what the money in his pocket is demanding, but they do not consent because they would rather be anywhere else . . . Ms. Gladue gave no consent to live in poverty, no consent to suffer the effects of colonization. Why do we think she consented to being a prostituted woman?”
IAAW and LEAF stated: “The trial judge’s failure to apply the rape shield law (s. 276) allowed prejudice to infect the trial proceedings, raising discriminatory myths and racist stereotypes about Indigenous women. In addition, the trial judge’s instructions did not clearly inform the jury that Canadian law requires a careful analysis of whether there was agreement to engage in every sexual act performed.”
Indigenous voices were also represented through The Women of the Métis Nation, the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, Aboriginal Legal Services, and Assembly of First Nations.
Jean Teillet, great-grand-daughter of Louis Riel, pleaded with the judges to speak up for Indigenous women. “We are asking you today to raise your voice on how the criminal justice system treats Indigenous women. We ask you to make sure no other Indigenous woman is dismembered.”
While the Supreme Court must rule on the technical points brought forward by the Defence, it is the ringing challenges from advocates in the Indigenous community and front-line organizations that will have long-term impact.
Note: The Supreme Court will announce its decision in several months.
Kate Quinn is the Executive Director of the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE).