As It Happens

'People need to know who she is,' says family of sex assault victim shackled during her attacker's trial

Family members of sex assault victim Angela Cardinal, a pseudonym used by CBC to protect her identity, went to court this week to face her attacker. Cardinal died in 2015.
Sex assault victim was interviewed by police hours after she was sexually assaulted by Lance Blanchard. Her identity is protected by a publication ban. (Edmonton Police Service)

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Family members of sex assault victim Angela Cardinal went to court this week to face her attacker, Lance Blanchard. 

Angela Cardinal, whose real name is protected by publication ban, was brutally attacked and sexually assaulted by Blanchard in June 2014. While she was the victim and not a suspect in the case, Cardinal was jailed in the Edmonton Remand Centre and kept in shackles in the courtroom for the duration of her testimony against Blanchard. 

They didn't care. I think it was her race, honestly... it's so appalling.- Angela Cardinal's sister-in-law

Cardinal died before Blanchard was convicted of aggravated assault, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping and unlawful confinement.

Blanchard had a court hearing regarding the conditions of his confinement on Tuesday. Cardinal's sister-in-law was at the courthouse, and spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about the experience. She cannot be named, because of the publication ban. 
This photograph shows injuries Angela Cardinal suffered when she was attacked by Lance Blanchard. (Edmonton Police Service)

Carol Off: What was it like for you and your family to sit in the courtroom yesterday, and see this man for the first time?

Angela Cardinal's sister-in-law: It was a nightmare, it was horrific. Just to see him, it was really hard. 

CO: It's a shocking case. When did you first learn of what had happened to your sister-in-law?

ACS: About two weeks ago. Two weeks ago we learned the horror that she went through. 

'They failed her big time'

5 years ago
Duration 0:58
Angela Cardinal's family reacts after her attacker, Lance Blanchard, appeared in court Tuesday.

CO: And there's two parts to this horror. The violent assault against her, by the man you saw in court yesterday, Lance Blanchard, and then there's what happened to her during the trial of Lance Blanchard, when she was the victim of this violent assault. What can you tell us about what happened to Angela during that trial?

ACS: She was locked up, shackled and forced to share a cell right beside the man who assaulted her, share a vehicle with him twice on the way to court, and that shouldn't have happened. She's not a criminal, she's the victim.

CO: Do you know why that happened?

ACS: No. They said that they were worried she wasn't going to make it to court. But she didn't miss any court dates prior to that.

CO: They said she appeared to be falling asleep one day during trial.

ACS: All the trauma that she went through with Lance Blanchard, her body... with trauma, your body shuts down. You'll get tired. She went through so much trauma that night, and to relive it every day during the trial, her body was just shutting down. 
It took 27 stitches to close the wound on Cardinal's hand after she was attacked by the knife-wielding Lance Blanchard. (Edmonton Police Service )

CO: The judge orders this to happen, that she is to be shackled and incarcerated for the duration of the trial. The judge says that she won't be put into the same van or near the man who attacked her. But, in fact, that happens. Why do you think that there was nobody else to advocate on her behalf, no one else in this whole court process who saw that there was something terribly wrong with this?

ACS: They didn't care. I think it was her race, honestly. I think they just thought of another Aboriginal woman who lived on the streets, homeless. They called her an addict right off the bat, and she wasn't. It's so appalling I don't even know what to say about it. 

CO: What have you learned as to what actually happened to your sister in the course of this assault? There's a 911 call, isn't there?

ACS: Yes. I heard that the other day and my heart sunk. She was crying for help: "Somebody help me." It was heartbreaking to hear. I couldn't finish listening to the call because she's passed now, and to hear that sadness to come from her...

CO: And that call was something she was able to make while she was being assaulted by this man.

ACS: She was so brave.

CO: Why were you in court yesterday?

ACS: To let him know that she has family and that she was loved. 
Convicted sexual predator Lance Blanchard hours after he attacked Angela Cardinal in June 2014. (Edmonton Police Service)

CO: Has he been classified as a dangerous offender?

ACS: I think that hearing was going on today.

CO: What do you hope comes from that?

ACS: That he would be classified as a dangerous offender. This is not the first woman he's hurt. And it probably won't be his last. He was smiling when he left the courtroom yesterday in his wheelchair. 

CO: There's still a publication ban on her name. We're using Angela Cardinal as a pseudonym. Why do you think there's still a ban?

ACS: We don't know, the whole family wants it gone. Because she's a human being. There are so many Angela Cardinals. People could mistake one for the other. Giving her a fake name doesn't make her who she is. Her name makes her who she is. I think that people need to know who she is. 

Muriel Stanley Venne said she was horrified and disgusted by what happened to Angela Cardinal in Alberta's justice system. (CBC)

CO: And who is she? We're hearing this horrible chapter of your sister's life. But who is the woman you'd like us to know?

ACS: A loving, caring mother. She was my best friend. She was homeless, and she had nothing, but if me and her brother needed something, she would take the shirt off her back to help us. She loved everybody, she loved society. She never hated anybody. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Angela Cardinal's sister-in-law.