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Family angry over treatment of Alberta sexual assault victim: ‘She didn’t do anything wrong’

Click to play video: 'Family of sex assault victim locked up in Edmonton Remand Centre speaks out' Family of sex assault victim locked up in Edmonton Remand Centre speaks out
WATCH ABOVE: The victim's mother cried in court Tuesday at a hearing for the man who attacked her daughter, who cannot be named, in an Edmonton apartment. The details of the case are horrific. Quinn Ohler reports – Jun 6, 2017

The family of a sexual assault victim who was jailed and shackled while testifying against her attacker is angry about how she was treated by Alberta’s justice system and wants the man to spend the rest of his life in jail.

Lance Blanchard was found guilty last year of aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping and unlawful confinement for the 2014 attack.

Relatives of the 28-year-old indigenous homeless woman came face to face with Blanchard on Tuesday during a court hearing over his treatment at the Edmonton Remand Centre.

“It hurts. I want him in jail. I don’t want him out here. I don’t want anybody else to get… raped and beat up,” the woman’s tearful mother said outside court.

“I wanted to know why he did that to my baby. Why her? I don’t mean for anybody else for that to happen to them. Why my baby?”

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The Crown is seeking to have Blanchard declared a dangerous offender. Blanchard’s lawyer is trying to block the move.

At a 2015 preliminary hearing for Blanchard, a judge agreed with the Crown that the victim should spend five nights in the remand centre during her testimony. The Crown was concerned about her behaviour and whether she would return to court otherwise.

READ MORE: Alberta launches investigation after sexual assault victim jailed during hearing 

The woman, who was originally from Maskwacis, Alta. and can’t be identified, was shackled and handcuffed during her testimony. On at least two occasions, she had to ride in the same prisoner van as her attacker.

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The family of a sexual assault victim is upset about how she was treated by the Alberta justice system. Court exhibit: Court of Queen's Bench
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The family of a sexual assault victim is upset about how she was treated by the Alberta justice system. Court exhibit: Court of Queen's Bench
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The family of a sexual assault victim is upset about how she was treated by the Alberta justice system. Court exhibit: Court of Queen's Bench

On Monday, Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley called the case “disturbing and tragic” while announcing two investigations into how the victim was treated. Ganley has apologized to the family.

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The mother said the minister’s words gave her no solace.

“It didn’t matter. She is already gone,” the mother said. “She didn’t do anything wrong. She was a happy-go-lucky girl.”

The woman was killed in an unrelated shooting last year.

Family members said they are also angry with the Crown for not allowing the victim’s name to be published. The mother said her daughter was smart and strong, and people should know who she was.

The victim’s sister-in-law said the woman’s relatives still can’t believe how she was treated.

“This shouldn’t have happened — how she was handcuffed, shackled. There were other options. They didn’t try to find the family, saying can she stay here while the trial was going on. They didn’t try to take her to a woman’s shelter.

The Alberta Judicial Council said Tuesday it had not received any complaints about how provincial court Judge Raymond Bodnarek conducted Blanchard’s 2015 preliminary hearing.

Provincial court Chief Judge Terry Matchett said he has no authority to review decisions made by judges during trials or preliminary hearings, including decisions about keeping a witness in custody, which is allowed under the Criminal Code.

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But Matchett said he will look at what happened to determined if anything can be learned.

“I will be conducting a detailed examination of all of the circumstances of this case,” he said in an email.

Watch below: Kathleen Ganley believes, in this “unacceptable” treatment of a sexual assault victim, “there is plenty of blame to go around.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta justice minister talks about sexual assault case review' Alberta justice minister talks about sexual assault case review
Alberta justice minister talks about sexual assault case review – Jun 5, 2017

A different judge who found Blanchard guilty in December expressed regret that the woman was held 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,” Justice Eric Macklin wrote in his ruling released earlier this year.

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Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said Tuesday the woman’s treatment “was absolutely unacceptable.”

“The system failed her on a number of different fronts.”

— With photo and video files from Global News

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