A University of Windsor law professor is “very angry” with the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to order a new manslaughter trial in the death of Cindy Gladue.
Beverly Jacobs, who acted as an intervener in the Supreme Court case, thinks it should be a murder trial for Ontario trucker Bradley Barton instead.
Not only that, she feels the Supreme Court decision should have mentioned how the court admitted Gladue’s vaginal tissue as evidence in the recent Supreme Court decision.
“It sets a precedent for body parts to be presented as evidence in criminal, murder, manslaughter cases,” said Jacobs. “I’m worried about women who may now go through sexual assault cases and having their vaginas on display.”
Gladue, a 36-year-old Indigenous woman, was found dead in a bathtub in a motel bathroom in Edmonton in June 2011, after engaging in paid sex with Barton for two consecutive nights.
She bled to death from an 11-centimetre wound to her vaginal wall.
Barton was acquitted of first-degree murder and manslaughter in 2015. The decision was then overturned by the Alberta Court of Appeal.
‘Dehumanizing’ justice system
One point discussed in the decision is how Barton’s trial failed to follow the “rape shield law.”
The law prohibits admission of evidence about a victim’s sexual activity that could suggest the victim was more likely to have given consent, or was less worthy of being believed.
However, during Barton’s trial, the jury heard evidence of Gladue’s past sexual activities before holding a separate hearing.
For Rebecca Major, assistant professor of political science at the University of Windsor, this is an example of a flaw in the justice system, and how “dehumanizing” it can be for people.
Major said even though previous sexual encounters aren’t supposed to be considered, “they often are, for Indigenous women, especially.”
“That didn’t make them less human. That didn’t make their lives less valuable,” she said.
Barton’s new trial will take place in February 2020.
Jacobs worries how Gladue’s family will be affected as they go through another trial.
“I always try to be hopeful, but right now, I have no words to describe that disrespect, dishonour, the indignity towards Cindy Gladue, and the failure of the whole system,” Jacobs said.
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