Article Source: The Edmonton Journal
Posted: April 2, 2015
BY ALEXANDRA ZABJEK, EDMONTON JOURNAL
EDMONTON – Outrage and concern rippled across the country Thursday as hundreds gathered to protest an Edmonton court case that has become a flashpoint for anger about violence against indigenous women in Canada.
Cindy Gladue died in an Edmonton hotel room four years ago. The man charged with murder in her death was acquitted last month, a decision that prompted immediate condemnation and calls for an appeal in the case.
Few of the hundreds gathered in Edmonton knew Gladue personally. But her case resonated.
“There are so many indigenous women and girls that have gone missing … I think this incident just really set a spark to set the fire ablaze that we really do need to do something,” said Fawn Lamouche, who helped organize the demonstration and stood with Gladue’s mother and three daughters at the rally.
“We, as a community, need to stand up and ask for some kind of justice for these women.”
The demonstration came on the same day the Alberta Crown Prosecutor’s Office announced it had filed an appeal on the acquittal of Bradley Barton. The Crown has also taken the unusual move of defending its work on the case online and calling Gladue’s death “appalling.”
Gladue — a 36-year-old mother who grew up in Calling Lake — died in a bathtub in the Yellowhead Inn in 2011. Barton had hired her for sex and the pair went to the motel for two nights. On the second night, Gladue bled to death from an 11-centimetre wound to her vagina that Barton testified was caused by his hand during rough sex.
The horrific details of the case drew increasing attention as the trial wore on. The Crown contended Gladue’s wound was deliberately caused by a sharp object. Crown prosecutors made the rare move of bringing Gladue’s preserved vagina into court, so jurors could view the wound that caused her death. Critics have said bringing such evidence into the courtroom was disrespectful and de-humanizing.
The jurors who sat through the month-long trial heard conflicting testimony from expert witnesses brought in by both the Crown and defence. They heard lengthy legal arguments about the evidence needed to hand down a first-degree murder conviction. The jury also had to contend with issues of sexual consent, including the possible use of force that went beyond Gladue’s initial consent and her high blood alcohol content at the time of her death.
Many in the crowd hadn’t read every detail of the trial. Still, much about the case raised questions and concerns. Similar demonstrations took place in other Canadian cities, including Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.
“It triggers much larger structural issues and they’re absolutely, directly related … It triggers issues of justice in general, the justice system in general, representation of aboriginal people in the system,” said Krista McFayden of the Aboriginal Commission on Human Rights and Justice.
“We have another aboriginal woman who was a victim and there was no solution or closure for the family or the community. We’re here to support the family, the community, and women who are vulnerable in this city.”
Barton’s lawyer Dino Bottos said while he respects the protesters, they did not attend the month-long trial. If they had, he said, they likely would have agreed with the jury.
“What they’ve done is they’ve taken this case and tried to hold it up as an example of how aboriginal women or aboriginal people are mistreated by the criminal justice system,” Bottos said.
“The jury in this case spent a day-and-a-half deliberating. And it’s unfair to them to suggest that their verdict was misguided or based on race.”
Lamouche didn’t know Gladue, but she saw injustice in her case. She started organizing online to support Gladue’s family several weeks ago and was shocked to see hundreds of people gather on Thursday.
When she told the crowd that Crown prosecutors had filed to appeal Barton’s acquittal, the crowd erupted in cheers.
Lamouche told them: “This is not the end. We need to fight for the rest of our women.”
With files from the Canadian Press
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