Across Canada, people are still reeling a week after Bradley Barton was found not guilty in the horrific murder of aboriginal sex worker Cindy Gladue.
In 2011 Gladue, a mother of two, was found lifeless in a bathtub in an Edmonton hotel room, having bled to death. The autopsy reported that the cause of death was an 11-centimeter wound in her vaginal wall. While the prosecutors argued that the wound was made from a sharp object, the defense submitted that the wound was actually made by rough-but-consensual sex, and that there was never any intention to harm on Barton’s part. He was then found not guilty of first-degree murder.
The verdict has sparked protests and rallies across the country, and once again has people wondering why missing and murdered Canadian aboriginal women don’t seem to matter. According to Dr. Sarah Hunt and Naomi Sayers — both members of the First Nations, who fight for the rights of aboriginal women — the verdict “sends a chilling message to indigenous women.”
“The logic usually goes that if someone admits to injuring another person to the point that those injuries contribute to their death, the law will respond by convicting that person of a crime – the crime of murder, or manslaughter, if intent to kill cannot be proven. Not so, it seems, for indigenous women like Cindy Gladue.”
To further degrade Gladue — who was not only a sex worker, but also a woman, a daughter, and a mother — the prosecution submitted into evidence Cindy’s preserved sexual organs. Alberta’s chief medical examiner brought Gladue’s pelvis into the courtroom, where pathologists manipulated the organ behind an opaque screen to show the fatal wound to her vagina, via overhead projector, to the jury. It was argued that this final indignity to Cindy Gladue was necessary so the jury could “understand the nature of the wound.”
Protesters from British Columbia to Nova Scotia united on Thursday to demand justice for Cindy, and all of the 1,017 aboriginal women who have been murdered in Canada since 1980, according to the RCMP. A rate that is almost five times higher than that of all other Canadian women.
Julie Kaye, an assistant professor of sociology at the King’s University in Edmonton, asks “Where is the collective outrage?” regarding the not guilty verdict for Cindy’s murderer.
“The Gladue family deserves an appeal. Indigenous women and women in sex industries deserve an appeal. Sex workers do not consent to blunt trauma and 11-centimetre tears and death. Cindy Gladue did not consent to violence.”
In the midst of the protests demanding justice for Cindy, Chief Crown Prosecutor Michelle C. Doyle announced that there will, in fact, be an appeal over Barton’s acquittal. Perhaps this time around, Cindy Gladue can finally get the justice she deserves.
[Image Credit: Rabble]