#CindyGladue & Unchanging truths: whose story matters

Sometimes, in law, certain facts become settled as unchanging truths; these truths are brought forward as evidence to support a claim or rebut such a claim.

For Cindy Gladue, a mother, daughter, and Indigenous woman who sold and traded sex before she was found dead in a bathtub, one of those facts was that she met Bradley Barton in the context of selling and trading sex. For many, agreeing that the context Cindy met Barton as an unchanging truth brings anger and rage. Many will wonder why anyone like Cindy could resort to such activities but many will ignore why and how a jury, along with the Crown, Defence and Judge, could agree that an Indigenous sex worker consented to violence that killed her.

Therein lays the issue with the position of the Joint Intervener’s Factum, Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund Inc. & Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, which takes the position that the Crown, Defence and Judge relied too heavily on the fact that Cindy met Barton in the context of selling and trading sex.[1] While the Joint Intervener’s Factum recognizes the racist and sexist violence that Barton inflicted against Cindy[2], this is too easy of a position to take and this position ignores how and why a jury could acquit Barton in the murder of Cindy—an Indigenous sex worker who visited Barton not once but twice.

It is specifically Indigenous sex workers who continuously experience the injustice of the justice system; the justice system presents this idea that Indigenous sex workers are deserving of the violence they experience and they should at minimum expect the violence they experience.

Still, the fact Barton met Cindy in the context of selling and trading sex is neither deplorable to state nor should this fact and its context be erased. For Cindy, however, the violence in her story is manifold. First, it is through Barton’s testimony and then it is through the Joint Intervener’s Factum’s attempt to erase the fact Cindy met Barton in such context.

It is a well-established in law that nobody can consent to violence.[3] Where consent becomes muddied, but for no other reason than it is the victim’s word against the perpetrator’s word, is sexual assault. And, in this instance, Barton had the perfect victim, someone who would never tell her side of the story.

In the events described in a document to obtain a search warrant, Barton met Cindy at a hotel.[4] Barton paid Cindy for sexual favours, to later purchase drugs and share those drugs with her boyfriend.[5] On first evening Cindy and Barton met, Barton gave her boyfriend a cigarette package with Barton’s name, hotel phone number and room number written on the package.[6] On the next evening, around 10:00 pm, Cindy left to go Barton’s hotel and her boyfriend arrived shortly after.[7] Barton paid for her boyfriend’s beer and Barton and Cindy went to the room together.[8] Cindy and Barton continued drinking until about 12:40am.[9]

The document continues outlining the efforts Cindy’s boyfriend undertook to attempt to contact Barton.

When Cindy did not return home, her boyfriend called the phone number on the cigarette package around 4:00 am.[10] A male voice answered the hotel room phone.[11] He did not remember what the voice had said but he could hear Cindy “mumbling in the background prior to the phone being cut off.”[12] Next, Cindy’s boyfriend went to the hotel and knocked on Barton’s hotel room door.[13] Her boyfriend recalls he “did not get an answer despite being able to hear someone moving around the inside of the suite.”[14] At some point between knocking on the door and prior to around 7:58 am, Barton checked out of the hotel.[15] Barton was well on his way to work and expressed to his colleague, “It would be a good day unless the cops showed up.”[16] It was Barton’s colleague who recommended he “had to call the cops.”[17]

We must not forget the facts that do not make it into the courtroom. Such facts include the details outlined in the document to obtain a search warrant. Because for many Indigenous sex workers, this is their story—Having their boyfriends be a safe call (a person who they can call or who can call the client’s number in the event they do not return at a specified time), meeting their clients in hotels, and sometimes drinking with their clients. Still, these actions do not give consent to kill a sex worker especially not an Indigenous sex worker.

If justice includes relying on unchanging truths or the best evidence and the weighing of such evidence, then we must continuously ask whose truths are being told and whose stories are being erased. The case of Cindy Gladue is an attempt to erase her sex work experience while simultaneously relying on this same experience to affirm her consent. We must be honest with ourselves in how and why Courts attempt to justify such harm and why society silently agrees.




[1] See Factum, paras 6, 7, 9, 12, 21, 22, 23, 24-26, 53 (not publicly available).

[2] See Factum, paras 24-26.

[3] http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/784/index.do

[4] Brent Dahlseid, “Information to Obtain a Search Warrant” at para 7, 9 August 2011, (not publicly available).to justify such harm and why society agrees in silence. attmpes hing of such evidence, then we must continuously ask whose truth

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid at para 7.

[10] Ibid at para 8.

[11] Ibid at para 7.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid at para 8.

[16] Ibid at para 9.

[17] Ibid.

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