Supreme Court to review case of Ontario trucker accused in death of Edmonton woman

A leave to appeal has been granted in the case of an Ontario trucker charged with killing an Indigenous woman in an Edmonton motel room, sending the case to Canada's top court.

Warning: this story includes graphic details which some readers may find disturbing

Cindy Gladue, 36, was found dead in the bathtub of a west end hotel room four years ago. (Facebook)

A leave to appeal has been granted in the case of an Ontario trucker charged with killing an Indigenous woman in an Edmonton motel room.

In 2015, a jury found Bradley Barton not guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Cindy Gladue. The 36-year-old woman was found dead in a bathtub in an Edmonton motel room four years earlier.

Thursday's decision means Canada's Supreme Court will review the order for a new trial.

There was anger from coast to coast in 2015 when the Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench jury found Barton not guilty in Gladue's death.

Public outrage led to a series of rallies and a petition with more than 4,500 signatures demanding Alberta's justice minister appeal the jury's verdict.

Gladue, a mother of three, was found dead at the Yellowhead Inn in June 2011.

She died from blood loss from a perforation more than 11 centimetres long that went completely through her vaginal wall.

During Barton's first-degree murder trial, the jury was told she was a sex worker who lost her life after agreeing to have sex with the accused in exchange for $60. 
Surveillance video shows Cindy Gladue and Bradley Barton leaving Barton's hotel room. The next night, she would return to his room, where she would later be found dead. (Supplied)

The Crown's theory was that Gladue was incapacitated by alcohol when Barton used a sharp object to cut her vaginal wall, then moved her to the bathtub when she began bleeding heavily.

The defence contended that while Barton caused Gladue's fatal injury, it was a non-culpable act of homicide. Barton testified the injury was an "accident" from consensual sexual activity.

The Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the not-guilty ruling and ordered a new first-degree murder trial in the case last June.

The appeal court decision, released June 30, 2017, said there were flaws in the way the jury was instructed to consider sexual assault offences and the laws relating to consent.

The errors by Queen's Bench Justice Robert Graesser included erroneous instructions on what use the jury could make of Barton's conduct after the fact, and failing to instruct the jury properly on the law of sexual assault relating to consent, the decision said.

Barton's lawyer Dino Bottos appealed that decision saying the Appeal Court's ruling is flawed. 

'Judgment cried out for an appeal'

"I'm very relieved," Bottos said in an interview with CBC News on Thursday. "We think that the Court of Appeal of Alberta's judgment cried out for an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

"It's our belief, with respect, that the Court of Appeal made several legal errors in overturning Barton's acquittal and so we're excited about the chance of taking this to the Supreme Court to hopefully correct those errors." 

Bottos said his client is relieved that Canada's top court will review the case. 

Bottos acknowledged the ruling will be politically charged given the ongoing debate around sexual consent.

"When the Supreme Court grants leave to appeal in a situation like this, what it's really saying is that this is a matter of national importance," Bottos said. "But there is no telling what the Supreme Court will do with respect to its view on the law.

"The #MeToo movement is calling for robust and perhaps wholesale changes to the law of consent in the context of sexual assault," he said.

"The defence bar across the country is saying the law, as it is, strikes the right balance and there's no change necessary.

"This represents the Supreme Court of Canada's opportunity to weigh in on that and to say ... whether some tinkering of the law is required."

Victim's mother plans to attend hearing

The Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women and the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund were granted intervenor status by the Alberta Court of Appeal.

Edmonton lawyer Lisa Weber argued the case on their behalf and plans to ask to do the same when the case is heard by the Supreme Court.

When Weber heard this morning leave was granted, she immediately called Cindy Gladue's mother, Donna McLeod.

"I think she had mixed feelings," Weber said. "The initial reaction was certainly one of feeling re-traumatized. Having said that, Ms. McLeod was very unequivocal in saying we need to be there. In fact, she expressed that she very much wants to be there in the Supreme Court when the case is heard."

Lise Gotell, chair of the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, said the ruling is disappointing.

"This is a case that has critical implications for women's rights to body autonomy and also the rights of Indigenous women. And it was especially disappointing that this decision to grant leave would come on International Women's Day."

Bottos expects the high court will hear the appeal either late this year or early 2019.

Barton's retrial in Court of Queen's Bench was scheduled for next February. Appearing before the Supreme Court will likely put the lower court matter on hold.

With files from Janice Johnston and The Canadian Press,