Jailing of sex assault victim to be investigated

EDMONTON — Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley is demanding answers after it was revealed a sex assault victim was shackled and jailed during her case and was even forced to ride in a prison van with her attacker.

Ganley announced Monday she has launched two investigations.

“The facts of this case are disturbing and tragic, and when you add in the treatment of the victim in the system, they are almost incomprehensible,” said Ganley. “What is clear is that both policies and people failed in this case.”

Ganley said she wants to know if the fact that the woman was indigenous and living on the street played a role in how she was treated.

“One of the questions that keeps me up at night is whether it would have been the case that if this woman was Caucasian and housed and not addicted, whether this would have happened to her,” Ganley told a legislature news conference.

The 28-year-old woman, who was from central Alberta, was forced to spend five nights in the Edmonton Remand Centre during her testimony at a 2015 preliminary hearing for Lance Blanchard, the man who attacked her.

Court heard the woman was homeless and sleeping in an apartment stairwell when she was attacked and dragged into Blanchard’s apartment. She suffered stab wounds to her temple and hand as she attempted to fight off the sexual assault.

Court documents indicate the woman had trouble focusing and answering questions, so the hearing judge agreed with a Crown prosecutor’s request to have her spend the weekend in custody.

The complainant was forced to testify about her June 2014 assault in Edmonton while she was shackled and handcuffed and, on at least two occasions, she had to travel in the same prisoner van as her attacker.

A different judge — who found Blanchard guilty of aggravated assault, kidnapping, unlawful confinement and aggravated sexual assault — noted the woman’s treatment in his decision last December.

“She was clearly distraught and, using her word, ‘panicking.’ She was somewhat belligerent,” Justice Eric Macklin wrote. “Concerns were expressed as to her behaviour and whether she would voluntarily reattend on the following Monday to continue her testimony.”

Macklin expressed regret that the young woman was kept in custody.

“She was remanded into custody on the mistaken belief that she was ‘a flight risk’ and that she was simply incapable of participating properly in the court proceedings,” he wrote. “Her treatment by the justice system in this respect was appalling. She is owed an apology.”

That apology never came as she was killed in an unrelated shooting six months after her testimony.

Macklin noted the woman, whose name is protected under a publication ban, was never missing and had never failed to appear in court.

“Nevertheless … she remained in shackles,” Macklin wrote. ”(She) emphasized again that she was the victim and not surprisingly, said the following: ‘I’m the victim and look at me. I’m in shackles. This is fantastic. This is a great … system.’”

Ganley has hired Manitoba criminal lawyer Roberta Campbell to investigate what happened. A separate committee made up of representatives from police, the Crown prosecutors office, court services and victim services will make recommendations to fix gaps in policy.

Ganley said she has already apologized to the victim’s mother.

She also noted that any prosecutor who decides to use a section of the Criminal Code that allows for witnesses to be held in custody for refusing to testify must have the decision approved by the chief Crown prosecutor.

“I don’t think it’s too strong to say that this is a horrific situation,” said Kim Stanton, legal director for LEAF, Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund. “I hope that it is unusual because it’s beyond appalling.”

Stanton said the woman’s treatment highlights how the justice system continues to fail victims of sexual assault.

“It’s beyond belief,” she said. ”It’s just egregious that she had to spend the weekend there and subsequent nights. Surely somebody in that courtroom could have come up with an alternative solution.”

— With files from Bill Graveland in Calgary.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

BREAKING: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

Saddle up Red Deer, the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Canada is coming… Continue reading

Veterans’ Park barrier key to pedestrian safety, says Red Deer traffic engineer

The recently roughed-up concrete barrier in front of Veterans’ Park has seen… Continue reading

Man accused of home invasion in court

Victim was shot and cut with machete in September 2017 attack

Suspect accused of fleeing police in court

RCMP fired shots twice while trying to arrest three suspects in October 2017 chase

WATCH: Rebels play floor hockey with Annie L. Gaetz students

The Rebels may be on a losing streak but they were definitely… Continue reading

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Central Albertans recall Hawaii’s false missile alert

Former Red Deer councillor Paul Harris was hanging out at the Ka’anapali… Continue reading

This robotic maid takes us one step closer to ‘The Jetsons’

Imagine this: You’re rushing to get ready for work — juggling emails,… Continue reading

Milan line offers canine couture for pampered pooches

Milan has long been the world’s ready-to-wear fashion leader. Now, dogs are… Continue reading

Kim Kardashian West and husband Kanye welcome baby girl

NEW YORK — It’s a girl for Kim Kardashian West and her… Continue reading

Advocate poll takers oppose plastic bag ban

Red Deer Advocate readers like their plastic bags. In an Advocate poll,… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month