Canada: Indigenous Woman Forcibly Shackled, Jailed Near Rapist
By Staff Writers, teleSUR
Friday, Jun 9, 2017
|It’s been three years since a young Indigenous woman in Edmonton, Canada, suffered a ghastly attack on her basic human rights. The
case has raised questions about the unjust ways both Indigenous women
and sexual assault victims are treated by the judicial system in Canada.
But Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley’s call for a new investigation into the case that saw the victim forcibly shackled and jailed near her rapist is bringing attention to the pervasively abhorrent way Indigenous people — in particular, women — are treated in Canada’s justice system.
“The facts of this case are disturbing and tragic, and when you add in the treatment of the victim in the system, they are almost incomprehensible,” said Ganley this week as she announced the launch of two investigations. She added that “both policies and people failed in this case.”
“One of the questions that keeps me up at night is whether it would have been the case, that if this woman was Caucasian, and housed, and not addicted, whether this would have happened to her,” she told a news conference on Monday.
In 2014, the anonymous victim was homeless and slept on the stairwell of an Edmonton apartment after a resident gave her permission to do so. One night, while sleeping, she was brutally attacked by another resident, Lance Blanchard, who forced her into his apartment, before binding her with electrical cords and beating, stabbing and sexually assaulting her, according to the Edmonton Sun.
The young victim survived by putting her phone on speaker, dialing 911 and screaming, “Help me. Somebody, help me. I’ve been stabbed.”
When police arrived, they found the woman covered in cuts, with a black eye and bruises all over her body. She needed 27 stitches to repair the stab wound on her hand.
Months later, when she was forced to testify at Blanchard’s preliminary hearing in June 2015, CBC reported that she kept falling asleep and had difficulties answering questions.
In response, the prosecutor ordered her to spend the weekend at the Edmonton Remand Centre in order to ensure she would come back and testify.
“I’m the victim and look at me, I’m in shackles,” she had told provincial court Judge Raymond Bodnarek the following Monday, according to CBC.
“Aren’t you supposed to commit a crime to go to jail?” she had probed.
The young woman ended up spending five nights in the same jail as her attacker, twice forced to ride in the same van with him, and was also placed in a cell close to him during court breaks.
Blanchard was finally convicted in December 2015 on counts of aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, and unlawful confinement — but the young woman never saw justice.
She had died months earlier in an unrelated shooting.
Blanchard is now appealing for a stay on his conviction.
The victim’s sister-in-law said Tuesday she has not an ounce of sympathy for him.
“I heard that video recording of her 911 call,” the sister-in-law said, according to the CBC. “And to hear her voice screaming for help and he’s going to sit there and complain about shackles and how his TV’s not right.”
“I was angered (at) how he’s sitting there whining, complaining about how he’s being treated. And what did he do to get there? How did he treat her to get there?” she added.
In addition to Ganley’s committee investigation, criminal lawyer Roberta Campbell, outgoing president of the Law Society of Manitoba, will also conduct an independent investigation into the young woman’s treatment by the judicial system.
“She was the victim,” Campbell told the CBC. “We should have treated her as the victim. And I think it definitely speaks to a series of wrong decisions and a series of systemic failures that would have allowed us to do something like this to this young woman.”
The case has also raised questions about the way sexual assault victims are treated in the country.
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