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‘Tina and Colten are symbols,’ organizer says

A group of people huddled in blankets and holding signs with various messages were the first sign these weren’t your average sightseers taking in the view of the Horseshoe Falls from Table Rock.

The women and men gathered in Niagara Falls to honour the life of Tina Fontaine, a young Indigenous woman who was brutally murdered four years ago in Winnipeg. The body of the 15-year-old had been found wrapped in a duvet, weighted down with rocks and tossed into a river. Her death led to renewed calls for an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.

On Feb. 22, Raymond Cormier, the man charged with second-degree murder in Fontaine’s death, was acquitted. Sunday marked the second time in recent weeks members of the Indigenous community and its supporters had come together after a Saskatchewan farmer had been acquitted earlier of second-degree murder in the 2016 death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie.

“It’s not an individual issue,” said Patty Krawec of St. Catharines, a member of the Anishnaabe community who organized Sunday’s blanket walk. “Tina and Colten are symbols. It’s the systemic stuff.”

‘A lot of our young people feel disposable and we want to show them that isn’t the case.’
— Patty Krawec, walk organizer

While it’s appreciated that the Trudeau government is making and effort to address issues through the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the missing and murdered Indigenous women inquiry, there is plenty of work to be done, she said.

“But the truth card is so much bigger than the residential schools,” she said. “It’s not over.”

She cited a recent decision to approved the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline over the objections of Indigenous groups an example of the work that needs to be done.

“The Trudeau pipelines are going through,” she said. “There was a lack of consultation and they’re not going to stop things. It seems that if it’s something that could affect the rest of Canada ….”

Sunday’s walk was organized at the request of Fontaine’s family, which had asked that walks be organized across Canada. In Indigenous teachings, blankets often represent soothing, holding and honouring.

“A lot of our young people feel disposable and we want to show them that isn’t the case,” Krawec said.

One of the people who came to the walk was Debra Jackson of Niagara Falls, who huddled against the cold at Table Rock in a blanket with a special meaning.

“I have a daughter,” she said. “I made this for my (now 37-year-old) daughter when she was a baby.”

She said she knows just how fortunate she is but wanted to show support for Tina’s family and others.
“I still have my daughter,” she said.

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