The Current

Cindy Gladue case sends a devastating message to Aboriginal women

Rallies are planned for later this week over the case of Cindy Gladue, found dead almost four years ago. In a trial earlier this month, there was a not-guilty verdict for the accused. We look at how Cindy Gladue lives on in outrage over the vulnerability of Indigenous women.
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)

* Warning — this story contains some graphic and disturbing details. *

It was a harrowing story to begin with. Now, some see it as an example of the injustice faced by Canada's indigenous women.

Thirty-six year-old Cindy Gladue, died in an Edmonton hotel room in June, 2011. She bled to death, her body was found in the bathtub. Charged in the case was a truck driver, from Ontario — Bradley Barton. Earlier this month Mr. Barton was found not guilty of first-degree murder, as well as of manslaughter. It's a decision that has given way to outrage among women's rights activists.

'These are our family members, these are women.These are your neighbours ... these are people in our communities.And we need to give them justice.'-  Gabrielle Scrimshaw, president of the  Aboriginal Professional Association of Canada, arguing for a national inquiry.

Critics say the trial itself would have gone much differently if the victim hadn't been an aboriginal woman, and a sex worker, and if the jury hearing the case hadn't been entirely non-native. Also something unprecedented happened in the course of the trial.

A preserved part of the victim's own body was presented inside the courtroom as evidence: It was her pelvic area, including the eleven-centimeter long wound inside her vagina ... the wound which led her to bleed to death. The Crown argued the wound was caused by a sharp object, while the defence said it was caused accidentally by consensual, rough sex, which ultimately the jury believed.

Lynda Budreau-Smaganis is a Cree Metis elder and friend who supported the Gladue family during the trial. We reached her at her home, in St. Paul, Alberta. 

Despite the outrage it has sparked, Brad Barton's defence lawyer, Dino Bottos, says justice was absolutely served in this case. He joined us from Edmonton. 

Aboriginal women across the country say the fate of Cindy Gladue is just one more disturbing example of how they are being failed by institutions such as the justice system.

Katherine Hensel is a First Nations lawyer in Toronto. She is the founder and principal lawyer at Hensel Barristers in Toronto. 

In order to reach the prosecutors in this case, we contacted Alberta's solicitor general's office. We were told that because an appeal is being considered, the Crown lawyers are not available for comment.

This segment was produced by The Current's Marc Apollonio and Samira Mohyeddin.