EDMONTON – An Alberta judge has been cleared of misconduct in the case of a sexual assault victim who was shackled in court and imprisoned during her testimony.
The Alberta Judicial Council says provincial court Judge Raymond Bodnarek acted on the advice of the lawyers and tried to minimize hardship to the victim where possible.
The council says Bodnarek could have pushed lawyers on why the woman had to be shackled in court, but the fact he didn’t doesn’t amount to judicial misconduct.
“Where Judge Bodnarek made a specific ruling at each stage of the proceedings, the ruling was intended to serve the objectives of the best administration of justice,” the council said in a decision issued Friday.
The case involved an Indigenous woman, whose name can’t be published, but who has been referred to under the pseudonym Angela Cardinal.
The 28-year-old was forced to spend five nights in the Edmonton Remand Centre during her testimony at a 2015 preliminary hearing for Lance Blanchard, the man who attacked her.
Preliminary hearings are held to determine if there is enough evidence to go to trial.
Court heard Cardinal was homeless and sleeping in an apartment stairwell when she was attacked and dragged into Blanchard’s suite. She was stabbed in the temple and hand as she attempted to fight off the sexual assault.
The complainant was made to testify at the hearing while she was shackled and handcuffed and, on at least two occasions, was put in the same prisoner van as her attacker on the way to court.
Blanchard was found guilty in December 2016, but Cardinal was not alive to see it. She had died in an unrelated accidental shooting.
The Court of Queen’s Bench judge who found Blanchard guilty, Justice Eric Macklin, sharply criticized the treatment of Cardinal at the preliminary hearing, calling it appalling.
The case made headlines last June following a CBC report that prompted Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley to commission a report into Cardinal’s treatment.
That report, by Manitoba lawyer Roberta Campbell, was also issued Friday.
It found that the Crown prosecutor sought to have Cardinal remanded during her testimony because it was felt there was a risk she wouldn’t come to court.
The report said while Cardinal had been “somewhat belligerent” in court, “there had not been any incident of her failing to attend (in court) when required to do so.”
The report said Bodnarek was acting on faulty information when he ruled Cardinal be detained.
The judicial council noted Bodnarek took steps to keep Cardinal and Blanchard apart when he heard they were being transported in the same van. It said he also took other measures to keep the two as far away from each other as possible in court.
Ganley, reacting to Campbell’s report, said shackling policies are being revised to ensure that an accused and an alleged victim or witness are kept separated if both are incarcerated.
She said the report found that while the Cardinal case raised larger systemic problems, there was no evidence anyone directly involved was motivated by racism or racist beliefs.
“Every alternative will be exhausted by Crown prosecutors, working with criminal justice partners and law enforcement, before seeking the detention of a witness or a victim of crime,” said Ganley.
“When victims come forward to tell their story, we need to ensure that not only are they heard, but they are treated with compassion and respect.”