A walk is being held in Winnipeg this morning to honour Tina Fontaine, a day after the man accused of killing the 15-year-old girl was found not guilty.
Organizers said the march, which began at the Winnipeg courthouse at 408 York Ave. at 10:30 a.m. CT, is about love for Tina, peace, unity and ultimately an improvement in the justice and social systems designed to protect young people.
A jury acquitted Raymond Cormier, 56, of second-degree murder on Thursday after 11 hours of deliberation.
The verdict was met with anger and sadness by Indigenous leaders who say the girl was completely let down by the social safety net that was supposed to protect her. Tina Fontaine’s body was pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg on Aug. 17, 2014. It was wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down with rocks. (Tina Fontaine/Facebook) "The CFS [Child and Family Services] system has definitely failed Tina Fontaine, the Winnipeg Police Services failed Tina Fontaine and Canadian society failed Tina Fontaine," said Kevin Hart, the Assembly of First Nations regional chief for Manitoba. "Everybody right now across this country should be ashamed of themselves for the injustice that just occurred here."
Tina’s body, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down with rocks, was pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg eight days after she was reported missing in August 2014.
Tina, who was from the Sagkeeng First Nation north of Winnipeg, was only in the city for six weeks before she was found dead. In that time, she came in contact with police officers, paramedics, security officers, staff at the Children’s Hospital and CFS.
Despite being known as a runaway, she was able to regularly slip away from CFS care.
"All the systems that were to protect Tina failed her. How can we talk about reconciliation when the very [safety] nets that we’re asked to participate in do not fulfil what they’re supposed to fulfil? said Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
"We can no longer maintain these mechanisms that are prescribed to us. If we want reconciliation and to truly protect our children we can no longer allow the status quo to exist. This is unacceptable." Arlen Dumas, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, says all the systems designed to protect Tina failed her. (CBC) Leah Gazan, a social justice advocate and Indigenous studies instructor at the University of Winnipeg, said she was in Toronto when she heard the verdict and broke into tears.
"We have a justice system right now that’s clearly different, depending on who you are, between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians," she said, also mentioning the acquittal of Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley in the shooting death of Colten Boushie, 22.
"Our kids are not disposable. We need to take an active stance so they get a clear message that their lives matter and that people are watching and that they’re loved."
Like Dumas, Gazan believes reconciliation is a long way off "in the absence of justice."
"We need to go beyond conversations and rhetoric," she said. "There needs to be swift action, certainly, looking at the justice system and how it is stacked against Indigenous people and the systems that are supposed to protect our kids but are leaving them vulnerable."
Live blog of march
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