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Grisly court case heard at the Supreme Court could redefine sexual consent

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Warning: This story contains graphic descriptions of violence.

EDMONTON—A case that shocked the country with grisly details of an Indigenous woman found mutilated in an Edmonton motel is headed to the highest court in Canada on Thursday.

Cindy Gladue was found dead at the Yellowhead Inn after bleeding out in a bathtub from an 11-centimetre wound to her vaginal wall in 2011. Her accused killer, Bradley Barton, said the wound was inflicted from “consensual rough sex.”

He was found not guilty in a stunning acquittal. The Alberta Court of Appeal ordered a retrial in 2015, a decision Barton is now appealing.

Indigenous women, activists and community members from across the country will be watching the hearing closely.

Muriel Stanley Venne, president and founder of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, is in Ottawa to speak as an intervener at the Supreme Court of Canada hearing. She says the hearing has “huge implications” for the justice system, for Indigenous Peoples and for women in Canada.

“We’ve been struggling for decades to get attention paid to the death of our women,” she said. “In this case, there’s all the elements of prejudice and discrimination and a cavalier way of dealing with things, with no thought given to the feelings of the community. All of that is in this case and it’s brought out in clear form.”

“She was utterly dehumanized both in the treatment she received from Barton and in the treatment she received from the criminal justice system, the violence the criminal justice system enacted upon her,” said Julie Kaye, adviser for the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women.

Barton, an Ontario trucker who made his living moving furniture across Canada, was first charged with first-degree murder in connection to Gladue’s death on June 23, 2011. He stands six feet one inch tall and weighed 220 pounds.

Gladue, 36, a petite woman at five foot five, weighing half as much as Barton, was found dead in a blood-smeared bathtub in Barton’s hotel room one day earlier. Court heard Gladue had a potentially incapacitating level of alcohol in her system.

In a rare move, a judge allowed the Crown to bring Gladue’s preserved pelvic tissue into the courtroom as evidence, causing national outrage.

At trial, Barton admitted to causing Gladue’s death but argued it was an accident resulting from consensual sex when he thrust his fist into her vagina.

The Crown suggested a sharp object may have caused the cut.

In either case, Crown prosecutors suggested Barton would still be guilty of manslaughter because he caused Gladue’s death in the course of a sexual assault.

However, a jury found Barton not guilty of first-degree murder and acquitted him of manslaughter.

A new trial was ordered after Alberta’s Court of Appeal agreed that the trial judge erred in instructing the jury and allowed evidence to be heard about Gladue’s sexual history that opened the door for racist and sexist myths and stereotypes that could have clouded the judgment of the jurors.

“This case has revealed the inescapable need in sexual offences to properly warn jurors to disregard unfair assumptions and to ensure that jury instructions adequately and accurately reflect the current law in Canada,” wrote Chief Justice Catherine Fraser, Justice Jack Watson and Justice Sheila Martin in a decision giving reasons for their call for Barton’s retrial.

“The courts cannot permit this to go on,” the decision concluded. “We must correct this. And we will.”

During her trial, Gladue was referred to as a “prostitute” 25 times and as a “native” 26 times.

“Rather than referring to her by name, she was referred to as ‘native girl,’ ‘native woman,’ as a ‘prostitute.’ These are very dehumanizing ways to refer to somebody, a person,” said Kaye.

To protect women in court proceedings from two stereotypes called the “twin myths” — the misconceptions that a victim of sexual assault who consented to sexual activity in the past is likely to have consented to the sexual activity at issue, and that a woman is less worthy of being believed because of her past sexual history — Section 276 of the Criminal Code outlines that allegations about a person’s sexual past are largely inadmissible in court and otherwise have to be preapproved by a judge out of earshot of the jury.

Alberta’s Court of Appeal found this did not happen in Gladue’s case, as all sides repeatedly referred to Gladue as a prostitute said to have agreed to having sex with Barton for $60 and the judge made no effort to explain to the jury that her sexual past should have no bearing on her likelihood of consenting to the sexual acts that killed her.

“We do have legal principles to suggest any sexual activity has to involve consent specifically to the degree of force that’s used within the grounds of that activity,” said Kaye, adding they are looking to the Supreme Court of Canada to ensure those legal standards are upheld.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments on multiple procedural issues as they decide whether Barton will face a new trial, but some hope this case will see the top court decide whether a person can consent to sexual activity when there is an objective likelihood of serious harm.

Alberta’s Court of Appeal brought up case law out of Ontario looking at incidents in which a person died during a consensual fist fight. It was determined consent couldn’t be given for acts in which that kind of harm was intended and caused, but there was little legal direction as to how issues of consent may apply to cases of sexual assault where harm or death is caused.

In 1998, Venne received an Alberta Human Rights Award at Edmonton City Hall where she made a point to utter the names of 110 Indigenous women who were murdered without a single person charged. She remembers speaking with a newspaper columnist who covered the awards ceremony and asked how many phone calls they had received about the missing and murdered women.

No one called. As Venne sees it, no one cared.

Now 20 years later, she says not much has changed.

“In many cases it’s changed for the worse. It hasn’t gotten better. But as I say that … we always take the attitude that there has to be some good out of even the worst situation,” Venne said from Ottawa.

Venne, who has been a human-rights activist for some 40 years, called the Cindy Gladue case a “pinnacle” in her quest for justice.

Especially in light of a renewed focus on missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada and the global #MeToo movement, Venne believes the hearing will be precedent setting and a test of how the justice system treats Indigenous women.

“It’s an opportunity for Canada and the provinces, and every citizen and every woman in this country, to realize that if the Bradley Barton acquittal stands, they are in jeopardy,” she said. “This is an opportunity that was never before given to us, as a country, as the citizens of Canada, to do the right thing.”

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Anglais

Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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