WARNING: CONTENT MAY DISTURB SOME READERS
Cathy Hamelin clutched braided sweetgrass as Alberta Chief Justice Catherine Fraser described in increasingly graphic detail the vaginal injury that caused Cindy Gladue to bleed to death in a motel bathtub.
A panel of three judges in Alberta’s capital heard an appeal on Tuesday into the case involving the 36-year-old mother of three who died in 2011 after a paid sexual encounter with Bradley Barton, a trucker from Ontario. A jury acquitted Mr. Barton of first-degree murder and chose not to convict him of the lesser charge of manslaughter on March 18, 2015.
Mr. Barton’s acquittal provoked rallies across Canada and howls of protest that the indigenous sex worker’s death and allegedly botched trial were an indication of racism and prejudice. Ms. Gladue’s vaginal tissue was brought into the courtroom as evidence, an indignity Ms. Hamelin said she couldn’t forget as she sat and watched the appeal.
“How did this happen?” asked Ms. Hamelin after the first day of the appeal. “How could he have done this to this woman and just walk out the door?”
Ms. Hamelin isn’t related to the family, but the grandmother is a survivor of sexual violence and said she was attending as part of the wider issue with missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
Ms. Gladue was found dead after what Mr. Barton characterized as consensual, manual stimulation. On Tuesday, Crown prosecutor Joanne Dartana called for a new trial, criticizing the trial judge’s directions to the jury that acquitted the man.
While Mr. Barton did not attend Tuesday’s appeal, his lawyer repeated his testimony from court. The Ontario man said that he had paid Ms. Gladue for sex and had entered his fingers into the woman’s vagina. He fell asleep after the act. When Ms. Gladue was found dead in his motel bathtub the next morning, there was an 11-centimetre tear in her vaginal wall.
As the defence argued that Mr. Barton had done nothing more than stimulate the woman with his fingers, Alberta’s chief justice shot back from the bench. “There is still common sense in some courthouses in Canada,” she said. “There has to be something more that happened here … fingers in vagina do not kill women.”
Ms. Hamelin held onto the sweetgrass during the graphic exchange and slowly unwrapped sage, tobacco and cedar on a seat in the courtroom. “I need them to be grounded,” she said later. “I would have been inconsolable without them.”
Ms. Gladue’s mother, Donna McLeod, had planned on attending the hearing but could not make it because of a medical emergency. Reached at her home in Edmonton, Ms. McLeod said she hopes the Crown will prevail and that Mr. Barton will face a retrial.
“I want him to pay for what he’s done,” she told The Globe and Mail in a phone interview.
The chief justice repeatedly used the word “prostitute” in discussing the case at the hearing, and while she did not directly refer to Ms. Gladue as such, Ms. McLeod expressed frustration that the word was being used at all.
During opening remarks at the murder trial last year, the prosecution called Ms. Gladue a “prostitute” and referred to her “working relationship” with Mr. Barton. One of the Crown’s arguments on appeal is that there should, in fact, have been a closed-door hearing concerning the admissibility of Ms. Gladue’s sexual history.
Ms. McLeod said her daughter was so much more than a sex worker. She was the mother of three daughters. She joined her family on summer pilgrimages to Lac Ste. Anne, west of Edmonton, as part of an indigenous Catholic tradition. She loved to cook, draw and listen to Motley Crue.
“I don’t want the court using the word ‘prostitute,’” Ms. McLeod said. “She has a name.”
Ms. Gladue would have turned 42 years old on July 23. Her family and friends marked her birthday with a barbecue. Her mother lit a candle in her memory and said a prayer. “We told her we missed her,” she said.
The appeal will continue on Wednesday.Report Typo/Error
Follow us on Twitter:,