Death of Tina Fontaine

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Tina Fontaine
see caption
September 2013 school photograph of Fontaine
Born
Tina Michelle Fontaine

(1999-01-01)January 1, 1999
DisappearedAugust 8, 2014 (aged 15)
Downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Diedc. August 10, 2014(2014-08-10) (aged 15)
Body discoveredRed River, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Resting placeSagkeeng First Nation, Manitoba, Canada

Tina Michelle Fontaine (January 1, 1999 – c. August 10, 2014)[1] was a First Nations (Indigenous) girl who died in August 2014.[2] Her case is considered among the high number of missing and murdered Indigenous women of Canada. Her death renewed calls by activists for the government to conduct a national inquiry into the issue.

Identified early as a suspect, Raymond Joseph Cormier was charged in December 2015 with her murder.[3][4] Cormier was acquitted by a jury in February 2018.[5] Under new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2015, the government committed to creating an independent national inquiry into the issue of murders and violence against Indigenous women, which was started in 2017.

Background[edit]

Fontaine was raised by her great-aunt for most of her life, beginning around age 5.[6] They lived on the Sagkeeng First Nation, 121 km northeast Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Her father, Eugene, was beaten to death in 2011. His two assailants received manslaughter convictions. Fontaine's aunt recalled that her father's violent death deeply affected the girl. "She was very hurt, very lost. That's when she drifted away."[7] Despite being eligible she did not receive grief counseling following her father's death, and began struggling in school and running away from home. In July 2014 she went to Winnipeg to visit her mother, and was subsequently apprehended in Winnipeg by Manitoba Child and Family Services (CFS).[6]

Disappearances and body discovery[edit]

Fontaine was reported missing to Winnipeg Police Service on July 31, 2014.[8][9] Her aunt, Lana, later said that Fontaine had stayed with her during the August long weekend (August 1–3).[8] On August 5, Fontaine telephoned her CFS worker and was subsequently picked up by members of CFS and Winnipeg Police Service.[8] What happened to Fontaine between August 5 and August 8 is unclear, but she remained a missing youth.[8] She presented at a youth shelter in the early morning hours of August 8, but left shortly thereafter. At 5:15 a.m. on August 8,[6] two police officers encountered her in a truck with an allegedly drunk driver as part of a traffic stop, but did not take her into custody, even though she was known to be missing.[8][10] The two constables were suspended for their actions and left the police force.[11]

At 10 a.m., she was found passed out in an alleyway near Ellice Avenue and was escorted to hospital and treated before being checked into a hotel placement, which she soon left.[6] She was reported missing again on August 9.[12]

At around 1:30 p.m. on August 17, a body was found wrapped in plastic and a duvet cover and weighed down with rocks in the Red River.[13][12][14][15] The body was identified as that of Fontaine the following day.[16] Police believe she had died on or around August 10.[17]

A young woman who claimed to have been with Fontaine shortly before she disappeared told CBC News of events that happened in the hours leading up to her disappearance. Identified by CBC News as "Katrina", she said that after she met Fontaine between 10 and 11 p.m. on August 7, they went to eat at the Macdonald Youth Services emergency shelter at around 2:30 a.m.[18] Believing Fontaine was drunk, Katrina requested the shelter staff keep her overnight, but Fontaine refused to stay, and refused to give her name.[18] After seeing her get into the truck and the encounter with the police, Katrina lost contact with Fontaine until around 8 p.m., after Fontaine left the hotel where she was staying.[18] At around 3 a.m. the following morning, the two young women were approached on Ellice Avenue by a man who offered Fontaine money to perform a sex act.[18] She accepted and left with the man. Katrina followed them but lost sight of the two in the dark.[18]

Aftermath[edit]

In response to Fontaine's death, the Canadian Human Rights Commission requested a full inquiry into the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. The RCMP already had such a study underway, which was completed in 2014. Acting chief commissioner David Langtry wrote, "Once again our hearts are filled with grief and sadness as we mourn the brutal and senseless murder of an Aboriginal girl. Tina must not disappear into the oblivion of statistics."[19] With the change in government, in December 2016 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that a national inquiry titled "Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls" would be undertaken. Five independent commissioners were appointed, and commissioners and staff began to consult with families, activist organizations, and others about how to structure the inquiry.

In response to the death, a volunteer group known as Drag the Red was formed. They have begun to regularly drag portions of the Red River, in order to find bodies or evidence.[20] Additionally, a local Inuit woman, Holly Jarrett, has started social media campaigns: the #AmINext hashtag and a Change.org petition in response to Fontaine's death. The hashtag campaign called for a national inquiry and allowed Indigenous women to express their feelings about the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women.[21]

The Strong Hearted Buffalo Women Crisis Stabilization Unit, a semi-secure crisis intervention program for Indigenous girls considered at risk of sexual exploitation, was created in the fall of 2015 in response to Fontaine's case.[6] The Ndinawe agency also received funding to open 24/7 safe space for youth, which was launched in November 2018 as "Tina's Safe Haven".[6] Fontaine was buried on Sagkeeng First Nation next to her father. A memorial was placed at the site on the first anniversary of the discovery of her body at the Red River.[22]

On February 28, 2018, the Justice for our Stolen Children Camp was set up on Wascana Park in Regina in response to the death of Tina Fontaine and Colten Boushie.[23] In March 2018, political activist Indygo Arscott held a rally outside Toronto City Hall to voice outrage in memory of Fontaine due to Cormier being found not guilty of the crime.[24][25] In March 2019, Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth Daphne Penrose released a report documenting Fontaine's life and the shortcomings of the agencies that were meant to protect her.[6]

Trial[edit]

Raymond Joseph Cormier was charged with Fontaine's murder in December 2015.[12][26] The trial began January 29, 2018.[27] Raymond Cormier pled not guilty to second degree murder charges.[28] The government did not introduce any forensic evidence or eyewitnesses directly linking Cormier to Tina's death.[29] At the time of the trial, the cause of death remained undetermined. Cormier's lawyers argued that without a determination on the cause of death, it cannot be known for certain that Tina died as a result of an unlawful act, and Cormier should be acquitted "on that [argument] alone."[30] He was found not guilty on February 22, 2018.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Blaze Baum, Kathryn (August 22, 2014). "How many more women will it take, asks family of slain teen Tina Fontaine". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on August 25, 2016. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  2. ^ MacLean, Cameron (February 17, 2018). "How Tina Fontaine died remains a mystery following Raymond Cormier's acquittal". CBC News. Archived from the original on January 2, 2019. Retrieved February 25, 2019.
  3. ^ Renata D'Aliesio, Joe Friesen and Stephanie Chambers (11 December 2015). "Alleged murderer was a prime suspect not long after Tina Fontaine's death". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 5 April 2017. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  4. ^ Steele, Heather (11 December 2015). "What we know about Tina Fontaine's accused killer, Raymond Cormier". Global News. Archived from the original on 14 December 2015. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Jury finds Raymond Cormier not guilty in death of Tina Fontaine". CBC News. 2018-02-22. Archived from the original on 2018-02-22. Retrieved 2018-02-22.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Katie May (12 March 2019). "'A shameful legacy': Scathing report on Tina Fontaine's troubled life, tragic death points to systemic failures rooted in colonialism". Winnipeg Free Press. Archived from the original on 17 March 2019. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  7. ^ Lambert, Stephen (16 October 2014). "After her father was beaten to death, Tina Fontaine went astray: 'She only lasted two months in Winnipeg'". National Post. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e Dawkins, Glen (December 11, 2015). "Party-house acquaintance, 53, arrested in murder of Tina Fontaine". Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  9. ^ "Some events leading up to the arrest of a man in the death of Tina Fontaine". The Canadian Press. December 11, 2015. Archived from the original on December 13, 2015. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  10. ^ "Tina Fontaine died because police, CFS failed her, family says". cbc.ca. September 25, 2014. Archived from the original on September 13, 2016. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  11. ^ "Security video of Tina Fontaine captured days before she was killed shown in court". Archived from the original on 2018-02-07. Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  12. ^ a b c "Raymond Cormier, 53, charged with murder in Tina Fontaine death". CBC. 11 December 2015. Archived from the original on 11 December 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  13. ^ Katie Dangerfield (23 February 2018). "How the tragic death of Tina Fontaine helped spark the MMIWG inquiry". Global. Archived from the original on 3 March 2018. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  14. ^ "Tina Fontaine, 15, found in bag in Red River". The Globe and Mail. August 17, 2014. Archived from the original on August 9, 2016. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  15. ^ "Winnipeg police make arrest in case of Tina Fontaine". Toronto Star. 11 December 2015. Archived from the original on 10 July 2017. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  16. ^ Puxley, Chinta; Lambert, Steve (August 18, 2014). "Body of 15-year-old girl found in Winnipeg's Red River". ctvnews.ca. Archived from the original on August 28, 2016. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  17. ^ "Accused in Tina Fontaine killing had violent history, documents reveal". theglobeandmail.com. December 14, 2015. Archived from the original on September 13, 2016. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  18. ^ a b c d e "Tina Fontaine last seen leaving with man in West End, says friend". cbc.ca. September 25, 2014. Archived from the original on October 2, 2016. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  19. ^ "Tina Fontaine's murder renews call for inquiry into missing, murdered Indigenous women". APTN. 19 August 2014. Archived from the original on 17 June 2016. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  20. ^ "Drag the Red". Vice Media. 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-10-02. Retrieved 2017-09-05.
  21. ^ Burman, Jenny (2016-04-28). "Multicultural Feeling, Feminist Rage, Indigenous Refusal". Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies. 16 (4): 361–372. doi:10.1177/1532708616638693.
  22. ^ Miljure, Ben (August 17, 2015). "Memorial for Tina Fontaine unveiled one year after teen's body pulled from Red River". CTV Winnipeg. Archived from the original on August 21, 2016. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  23. ^ "After 108 days, Justice For Our Stolen Children camp comes down". Regina Leader-Post. 15 June 2018. Archived from the original on 23 June 2018. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  24. ^ Banares, Ilya (March 5, 2018). ""Justice for Tina Fontaine" rally held at Nathan Phillips Square". Archived from the original on July 27, 2018. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  25. ^ Johnson, Rhiannon (March 3, 2018). "Thousands gather in memory of Tina Fontaine in Toronto". Archived from the original on June 23, 2018. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  26. ^ "Murder charge laid in death of Tina Fontaine". CTV. 11 December 2015. Archived from the original on 11 December 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  27. ^ "Trial begins for Tina Fontaine's accused killer". Global News. Archived from the original on 2018-02-01. Retrieved 2018-02-01.
  28. ^ "Tina Fontaine's cause of death remains undetermined: pathologist tells Cormier trial". Winnipeg. 2018-01-31. Archived from the original on 2018-01-31. Retrieved 2018-02-01.
  29. ^ "No DNA evidence linking Raymond Cormier to Tina Fontaine, court hears". CBC News Manitoba. Archived from the original on 2018-03-10. Retrieved 2018-03-18.
  30. ^ "Jury finds Raymond Cormier not guilty in death of Tina Fontaine". CBC News Manitoba. Archived from the original on 2018-03-17. Retrieved 2018-03-18.

External links[edit]