Honouring Cindy Gladue

Two events in the past week remind me of the strength in collective action. This is one of them and the most significant in terms of public awareness.

A demonstration in 23 different centres from coast to coast to coast across Canada began with plans for a demonstration April 2 in Edmonton in front of the law courts where the trial of the accused murder of Cindy Gladue had ended in a shocking acquittal.

Gladue, an Indigenous woman, mother of three and sex worker, had bled to death in a bathtub in the Yellowhead Inn, a hotel in north Edmonton along the route from Saskatoon to Jasper, named for explorer and fur trader and explorer Pierre Bostonais nicknamed “Tête Jaune” for the blond streaks in his hair. has become a symptom of the contempt for the missing and murdered Indigenous women. So many of the signs “Colonialism kills” “We are human” etc. addressed the dehumanizing and deadly process of systemic racism. And this deep analysis of how this trial could come about in 2015 was there on the tip of everyone’s tongue. As the 1000 or so demonstrators headed south to Jasper Avenue from the Law Courts en route to City Hall, three Asian pedestrians approached the throng eager to cross the road.

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“We’ll have to cut through,” I heard them say as they headed into the lane-deep heady traffic of demonstrators decked out in posters and principles.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10153267444261385&set=a.10151947721346385.1073741830.555881384&type=1&theater”Indeed, cutting through…” I thought as I watched them. Cutting through the years, the connections, the timelines that link up our collective history here in Canada. Cutting through, that’s what we need. The kind of awareness that links up the Chinese Head Tax of the early years of the last century. Or the anti-Japanese Canadian WWII dis-ease that led to their brutal displacement and internnment in camps. Significantly, the Yellowhead highway construction in 1942 was accomplished in part by the work of interned Japanese Canadians, their spirits making way for the traffic that flew by the hotel the morning thattrial And the bigotry shown Ukrainian Canadians before they emerged as “white” in our culture.

Cutting through, I am reminded by my 86-year-old mother, an Anglo-Celt, was, as a child, forbidden by her mother, to play with her best friend, a Ukrainian girl from down the street. My grandmother, an impoverished orphan married into the McTavish clan in small-town Manitoba and treated as a servant by a pious Baptist foster family knew who mattered and who did not according to a racialized pecking order that defined race not by melanin and skin colour but by class and religion. By the time my mother remarried and my stepfather, a Ukrainian Canadian originally from a Saskatchewan farm turned globe-trotting engineer, my grandmother’s wishes were pointless and silent approval substituted. At the same time this was the mark of the racial pecking order among prairie settlers, my grandfather McTavish had a close relationship with the Indigenous community on a neighbouring reserve that was marked by a barter economy that sometimes emerged as a gift economy of exchange. My grandfather, a tall and handsome McTavish from a family of 14 boasted a Grade 8 education and a convivial nature. He filled out any government forms anyone on the reserve needed accomplished while the Indigenous community provided his family with any poultice or traditional medicine that might be required from a lively family of three young girls.

Cutting through to connect up the Islamophobic bigotry that marks the everyday lives of ordinary citizens and the extraordinary detention of citizens like Omar Khadr, and Mohamed Fahmy – the internal and external exclusions from the rule of law.

As we neared the turn in the demonstration that guided us back to City Hall, a young Indigenous woman talking with a friend said “…epistemology…” in the midst of her conversation.
“Now that is a big word,” said her friend.
And buoyed up by the sense of common cause, I chimed in, a stranger to the duo, saying “…a very big word, and a good one.”
They went on with their conversation talking about a conference, and I drifted off into the crowd thinking about how that is what we witness- an epistemological shift. This march and rally are a manifestation of Idle No More power – drummers, singers, Indigenous flags, elders and the  young, feathers and flags, caps and toques and beaded headdresses, leaders and community members from bands across the province. And beside them hundreds of settlers walking quietly following on as allies in the moving and sombre march of so many protesters through Edmonton’s downtown. Drumbeats and songs and eloquent signs and the tone reflective and serious-minded.
I looked around at so many with the long fight for justice on their mind. Marches in 23 communities across Canada. And for a change, some good coming out of the resistance – the court announces an appeal in the case of Cindy Gladue…

The Appeal

The Crown contends that the judge erred in law on the following grounds:

  • In his instructions to the jury with respect to manslaughter.
  • In his instructions to the jury with respect to motive.
  • In making a ruling under Section 276 of the Criminal Code after the close of evidence without any application having been brought by the defence and without a hearing on the issue.
  • In instructing the jury that the complainant’s consent on a previous occasion could be used to support a finding of honest but mistaken belief in consent on this occasion. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/cindy-gladue-murder-case-alberta-crown-appeals-acquittal-1.3019532

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