Appeal court denies Lance Blanchard's bid to overturn dangerous offender conviction

Lance Blanchard is serving an indeterminate sentence after being designated as a dangerous offender in 2018.  (Edmonton Police Service. - image credit)
Lance Blanchard is serving an indeterminate sentence after being designated as a dangerous offender in 2018. (Edmonton Police Service. - image credit)

The Court of Appeal of Alberta has rejected violent sexual offender Lance Blanchard's appeal of his conviction and sentence in a case that concluded with him being designated as a dangerous offender.

Blanchard, who is in his 60s, has been serving an indeterminate prison sentence since 2018, when the trial judge designated him as a dangerous offender. Prosecutors sought the designation after Blanchard's conviction for a 2014 aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping and unlawful confinement.

The justice system's treatment of Blanchard's victim in that case prompted public outrage after it was revealed that the victim had been jailed, forced to testify in shackles during Blanchard's preliminary hearing and was transported in the same prisoner van as Blanchard.

An independent investigation in 2018 that found there had been a "complete breakdown of legal protections."

A publication ban protects the identity of the victim, who was a Cree woman from Maskwacis. In earlier reporting, CBC identified the woman by the pseudonym "Angela Cardinal."

She died in an accidental shooting seven months after giving evidence at Blanchard's preliminary hearing, but her testimony was relied on at trial.

In his appeal, Blanchard argued that the trial judge had erred by admitting the victim's preliminary inquiry testimony during the trial, and in applying reasonable doubt and issues of credibility.

The three-judge appeal court panel rejected those arguments, as well as an argument that the judge erred in denying Blanchard's mistrial application.

Blanchard also appealed his sentence, which designated him as a dangerous offender, meaning he would be held in prison for an indeterminate period, with his first chance of applying for parole coming at seven years. If he ever were to be released, he would remain under indefinite supervision.

Blanchard has only spent 12 months of his adult life outside of prison, having first served a sentence for a 1975 rape, followed by a number of other convictions for violent offences.

Court also heard that Blanchard was subjected to sexual and physical abuse while being held in a mental health facility as a youth in the 1960s, and that he later suffered psychological damage while being held in isolation in federal prisons.

During his appeal, Blanchard argued his Charter rights had been breached during his time in the mental health facility and later by the Correctional Service of Canada, and that the trial hadn't properly considered an application to take that into account in his sentencing.

The appeal court found the trial judge had been right to approve the prosecution's cross-application to strike Blanchard's application, finding it would have been "manifestly frivolous" to run a hearing to determine whether the danger Blanchard poses to the public was truly caused by his treatment by government institutions or not.

"In any event, the trial judge concluded that the exclusion of evidence, staying a dangerous offender finding, or imposing a less onerous sentence would not be appropriate remedies even if a Charter breach was proved," the appeal judgment states.