Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Chief Perry Bellegarde and Alberta Regional Chief Cameron Alexis took part in gatherings today in support of justice for Cindy Gladue, a First Nations woman who was found dead in Edmonton in June, 2011. Following a month long trial, Bradley Barton was found not guilty. Today, the crown announced it will appeal.

“I am outraged by the original decision.  First Nations people from across Canada are outraged by the original decision.  And while the appeal announced today is a necessary step, this stands as one too many examples of systemic discrimination towards First Nations people,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde in a press release today.

Rallies took place across the country today to voice protest over the acquittal and to demand justice for Gladue. Gatherings were held in Calgary, Lethbridge, St. Paul, Ottawa, Toronto, Regina, St. John’s and in a number of other areas.

“We are far too often underrepresented on juries and overrepresented in jails.  Decisions like this send a devastating message to Indigenous women: ‘It says Cindy Gladue and other indigenous women, your lives don’t matter’,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “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.’  First Nations want to work toward First Nation-controlled justice systems based on respect for human rights and Indigenous rights.  This is part of our work toward real reconciliation.”

The release noted that Bellegarde and other AFN Executive Committee members planned to attend events across the country.  Bellegarde planned to attend the event in Saskatoon while AFN Alberta Regional Chief Cameron Alexis, who oversees justice issues and action on missing and murdered Indigenous women for the AFN, attended a demonstration in Edmonton.

“Violence against Indigenous women is not just a First Nations issue, it is a Canadian issue,” said Regional Chief Alexis in the press release.  “It a national tragedy and that requires urgent action.  Our work will continue at the national level to seek a National Inquiry on root causes of violence and to develop coordinated action across all jurisdictions, including implementing commitments of the recent National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.”

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