Justice Minister and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley has hired an independent investigator and has tasked a special committee to review the case of “Angela Cardinal,” as she has been dubbed by the CBC because of a publication ban.
Cardinal, the victim of a violent crime, was handcuffed and her legs shackled when she was brought into a courtroom June 2015 to testify against the man who abused her. She was housed in the Edmonton Remand Centre for the five nights during her testimony.
Ganley says when CBC told her last month what happened to the 28-year-old Cree woman from Maskwacis, who had lived in Edmonton, she met with the woman’s mother and apologized.
“I have had a chance to sit down with the victim’s mother and apologize for the way her daughter, the victim, was treated. I felt this apology was absolutely necessary. A representative from Victim Services will be working to ensure appropriate resources are available to the victim’s family,” said Ganley in a statement issued this morning.
Roberta Campbell, a criminal lawyer and outgoing president of the Law Society of Manitoba, will conduct an independent investigation into the incident and look into what other steps government might need to take.
The special committee includes Grace Auger, a lawyer and former vice president of the Indigenous Bar Association and Deb Tomlinson, CEO of the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services. They will be joined by representatives from law enforcement, the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, Resolution and Court Administrative Services and Victim Services. The committee will recommend policies to ensure such treatment does not occur again.
“When I was made aware of this situation, I was shocked, angry and heartbroken. It is obvious we failed her at every level and her story is a crucial reminder that we must do better. In my opinion, there were obvious mistakes and poor decisions made in this case,” said Ganley.
Cardinal had been held at knifepoint by Lance Blanchard, who removed her clothing, fondled her, choked her, and stabbed her multiple times. She managed to phone 911.
During the preliminary hearing, Cardinal and Blanchard were detained in the same facility.
Seven months after Cardinal testified at the preliminary hearing, she was killed in an unrelated shooting. The man who shot her pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Cardinal’s evidence from the preliminary hearing was used against Blanchard, who was found guilty of aggravated assault, kidnapping, unlawful confinement, aggravated sexual assault, possession of a weapon and threatening to cause death or bodily harm. The Crown will be asking to have him designated a dangerous offender.
Updated at 3 p.m. with comments from a Press Conference with Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley
Ganley says treatment of victim “absolutely unacceptable”
Justice Minister and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley won’t deny that the horrific treatment of a sexual assault victim by the justice system – which included her spending five nights in the Edmonton Remand Centre during her testimony – may have been because she was First Nations.
“One of the questions that keeps me up at night is whether it would have been the case if this woman was Caucasian and housed and not addicted whether this would have happened to her,” Ganley said this morning at a news conference.
Also adding to Ganley’s concerns is that the provincial court judge who detained “Angela Cardinal,” a pseudonym due to a publication ban, was a former deputy minister in the Justice department.
“I absolutely think the facts of this entire case speaks to a systemic problem in terms of how we deal with certain people in the system. I think we were aware those problems existed before but this definitely shines a very strong spotlight on those problems,” said Ganley.
Not only was Cardinal brought into the courtroom for a preliminary hearing in the case against her abuser in handcuffs and leg shackles, but she was transported in the same van as her attacker Lance Blanchard and detained in the same facility.
Ganley has hired an independent investigator and has tasked a special committee to review the case.