OTTAWA – The country’s highest court says Ontario trucker Bradley Barton should be retried for manslaughter, but not murder, in the case of Cindy Gladue, who bled to death in the bathroom of his Edmonton motel room.
In a 4-3 decision today, the Supreme Court says evidence about sexual history was mishandled at the original trial that led to Barton’s acquittal on a charge of first-degree murder.
Barton acknowledged hiring Cindy Gladue for sex in 2011 and claimed the severe injury to her vaginal wall that caused her death was an accident that took place during rough but consensual activity.
The Crown argued that Barton intentionally wounded Gladue and was guilty of first-degree murder or, at the very least, manslaughter, because the 36-year-old Metis woman had not consented to the activity.
Barton was found not guilty by a jury that repeatedly heard references to Gladue as a “prostitute” and a “native.
A majority of the Supreme Court says Barton’s new trial should be restricted to the offence of manslaughter, as the procedural errors at the original trial did not taint the jury’s finding on the question of murder.
The minority said he should be retried with both manslaughter and murder as possible verdicts.
Melanie Omeniho, the president of Women of the Metis Nation, says in these kinds of cases Indigenous women are often perceived almost like they’re the criminal and that they have to defend themselves.
Qajaq Robinson, a commissioner in the national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women, says indigenous women who encounter the criminal-justice system often feel reduced to stereotypes and that “they do not get the justice that other Canadians get from the system.”
In its decision, the Supreme Court says the trial judge failed to apply provisions in the law that limit the extent to which an alleged victim’s sexual history can be discussed during proceedings.
It says these provisions should have been followed before introduction of evidence about Gladue’s sexual activity with Barton on the first night.