There is some relief that the Alberta Crown is appealing the acquittal of a man accused of killing Cindy Gladue but the Edmonton woman’s death remains a rallying point for those frustrated with the lack of official action on missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.
Hundreds of people gathered in at least 23 rallies held across the country on Thursday to demand justice.
Perry Bellegarde, chief of the Assembly of First Nations, was among the crowd in Saskatoon.
Bellegarde welcomed the appeal but says the fundamental problem remains.
“I am outraged by the original decision. First Nations people from across Canada are outraged by the original decision,” Bellegarde says in a statement.
“This stands as one too many examples of systemic discrimination towards First Nations people.”
Gladue, 36, bled to death in an Edmonton motel bathtub from an 11-centimetre wound in the wall of her vagina.
Bradley Barton, a 46-year-old long-haul trucker from Ontario, was acquitted by a jury last month of first-degree murder and the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Barton admitted in court that he’d hired Gladue for sex.
He testified that they’d engaged in rough sex and that it was consensual. If he caused the injury, it was inadvertent, Barton told the jury.
He said he was asleep as she died in June 2011.
The Crown said Gladue was stabbed intentionally but even if it was an injury caused during sex, there could not have been consent.
Critics of the verdict point out that Gladue’s blood-alcohol level was four times the legal limit, questioning the claim that the sex could ever have been consensual.
Gladue was one of 1,017 indigenous women murdered in Canada between 1980 and 2012, according to a report released last year by RCMP. Another 164 aboriginal women were missing in that time.
The Alberta Crown filed an appeal of the verdict on Thursday.
"The death of Cindy Gladue was shocking and appalling," Crown prosecutor Michelle Doyle says in a statement.
It caused significant harm to her family and the community and the Crown takes that seriously, she says.
While an Alberta Justice spokesman told reporters the decision to appeal is based solely on legal issues, more than 4,000 people have signed an online petition asking Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis to appeal.
Gladue’s mother and daughters were among those who gathered in Edmonton to mourn her.
In Kenora, Winnipeg, St. John’s and Victoria, men and women held signs demanding justice for the Cree mother whose violent death has become a rallying point in the fight for missing and murdered indigenous women.
In Toronto, a young aboriginal woman danced in Gladue’s honour and in Whitehorse protesters sang prayer songs on the courthouse steps.
In Vancouver, protesters demanded justice for not only Gladue but all aboriginal women.
“Decisions like this send a devastating message to Indigenous women: It says `Cindy Gladue and other indigenous women, your lives don’t matter,’” Bellegarde says.
“We need fundamental change so that the justice system is accessible, respectful of the victims of violence and their families. We are simply seeing too many of our people coming into harm and to that we say ‘enough.’”
The assembly and others say they will continue to press government for a public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.