Jailing of indigenous assault victim sparks anger in Canada

The victim of a stabbing and sexual assault was forced to testify in shackles and handcuffed when not in court. She was also often put in a cell next to her assailant and driven to court in the same prisoner van at least twice. She was a member of Canada’s First Nations.

MASKWACIS, Alberta — A homeless indigenous woman, victim of a stabbing and sexual assault, was forced to testify in shackles, then jailed in a cell alongside that of her attacker in a case that has roused indignation in Canada about the treatment of the people it calls the First Nations.

The Alberta provincial justice minister has launched two investigations, the chief judge of the Provincial Court of Alberta is reviewing the decision to detain the woman and activists are denouncing a legal system they say is chronically unfair to the indigenous.

“They would never do that to a white person. I don’t even think they would do it to a black person,” said Rick Lightning, an indigenous elder in Maskwacis, a community south of Edmonton where the woman grew up. “Then why is it OK to do it to an Indian?”

Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley has apologized to the family of the victim, a Cree woman whose name has not been made public because she was the victim of a sexual assault.

It hurts. It’s not an Indian thing; it’s a human being thing. How they treated my daughter was terrible.” – Mother of assault victim, speaking through a Cree translator

The woman’s mother, whose name also was withheld to protect her daughter’s identity, said she had been a “happy go lucky” girl who made others laugh. Court documents describe her as a good student who gravitated toward drugs in Edmonton, where she ended up homeless and addicted to crack.

There she encountered Lance Blanchard, more than twice her weight and 17 inches taller. He had recently been released from prison after serving time on charges that included sexual assault and manslaughter. Police…

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