National Inquiry into MMIWG Will Intervene at Supreme Court

MMIWG Inquiry
National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Chief Commissioner Marion Buller listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, November 1, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Winnipeg, MB. – On October 11, 2018, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will be an intervener at the Supreme Court of Canada in the case Barton v. Her Majesty the Queen. The National Inquiry will focus arguments on the over-representation of Indigenous women as victims and judicial notice of the systemic harms experienced by Indigenous women and girls.


The original trial: Cindy Gladue died in 2011. She died as a result of bleeding to death after a sexual encounter with Bradley Barton in Alberta. Barton, a trucker, told the trial that the wound he caused to Gladue which lead to her death was accidental. Barton was acquitted at his trial in 2015 of both first-degree murder and of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Cindy Gladue was referred to as a “native,” “a native girl,” or “native woman” a total of twenty-nine times at during the murder trial. Gladue was also called a “prostitute” a total of thirty-six times during the trial. This included the presiding trial judge using those terms to describe her. The not guilty verdict sparked widespread protests across the country. The results of the trial led finally to Gladue Reports being implemented for Indigenous persons before the courts.

The appeal hearing: The Alberta Appeal Court reversed the original verdict. The AAC stated that the presiding trial judge didn’t properly understand that the use of the terms “native” and “prostitute” and therefore invited the jury to “Bring to the fact-finding process discriminatory beliefs or biases about the sexual availability of Indigenous women and especially those who engage in sexual activity for payment.”

The Supreme Court case: The Supreme Court will determine if Bradley Barton will face another trial. The key question will be if new ground rules are needed for sexual-assault trials, including how the issue of consent is applied to cases involving sex-trade workers. Several Indigenous groups are also intervening in the case. Their argument is that Gladue was denied justice because she was Indigenous.

The National Inquiry looks forward to contributing as an intervener in this important case. “During the short time we have held hearings across the country, we have heard hundreds of stories of violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls,” said Chief Commissioner Marion Buller. “The death of Ms. Cindy Gladue and acquittal of Mr. Bradley Barton is emblematic of how Indigenous women are seen as less than worthy victims in general, but specifically within the justice system,” concluded Chief Commissioner.

Other interveners in this case are, Director of criminal and penal prosecutions, Attorney General of Canada, Attorney General of Ontario, Attorney General of Manitoba, Vancouver Rape Relief Society, Assembly of First Nations,a Concertation des luttes contre l’exploitation sexuelle (La CLES), AWCEP Asian Women for Equality Society, Aboriginal Women’s Action Network (AWAN), Formerly Exploited Voices Now Educating (EVE) and CEASE: Centre to End All Sexual Expploitation (CEASEAd Idem / Canadian Media Lawyers Association, Women of the Métis Nation, Independent Criminal Defence Advocacy Society, Criminal Lawyers’ Association of Ontario, Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund Inc., David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights, Aboriginal Legal Services, Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association (Alberta)

“The National Inquiry has a legitimate interest in this case, and in ensuring the law of consent accurately takes into account issues that contribute to the violence and vulnerability Indigenous women and girls experience,” explained Christa Big Canoe, Lead Commission Counsel who will be making oral submissions on behalf of the National Inquiry.

On March 8, 2018, the Supreme Court of Canada granted the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls standing as an intervener in Barton v. Her Majesty the Queen. To see the National Inquiry’s full factum, please go to: https://www.scc-

MMIWG Document

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