Raymond Cormier was found not guilty in the death of Tina Fontaine, who was found in the Red River in Winnipeg. When the verdicts were announced in the Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine trials, the Indigenous justice coordinator at our Community Legal Clinic approached me and asked if I was planning to write something. I proposed we co-write something, but in the end, she wrote a piece to share. As a white settler ally, I must centre the voices and perspectives of Indigenous folks. So, here is the piece that Lu Roberts wrote. She offers her reflections on the current state of affairs in Canada’s justice system.
When the not guilty verdict was announced in the Gerard Stanley trial, my heart sunk. I was in shock. Not guilty of second degree murder, not guilty of manslaughter. Free. Colten Boushie got no justice. His family left in turmoil as the accused and the jury were rushed out of the courtroom. Just before Stanley’s verdict was read I thought maybe as a country we were making progress. Maybe this time, I hoped, we would keep our dignity. After all, “ reconciliation ” is the buzz word of the day. Later that evening, I cried as I looked at my sleeping children knowing they are growing up in a country with a justice system that does not work in their favour.
Not even two weeks later, Raymond Cormier was found not guilty in the death of Tina Fontaine, who was found in the Red River in Winnipeg, wrapped in a duvet cover said to be Cormier’s. Cormier was quoted saying, “Tina was killed because I found out she was 15 years old.
“There was a little girl in a grave someplace screaming at the top of her lungs for me to finish the job,” he continued. “And guess what? I finished the job.”
How do I teach my children to be proud of their Cree heritage when there are constant messages that Indigenous people are worth less than property, that we are expendable? I grew up with that message every day, even within my own home. My mom went to a residential school. I didn’t know what it meant to be Cree other than it was something to be ashamed of. It took a long time to unlearn, to not feel the humiliation of who I was and who my family was.
It is easier to justify Colten and Tina’s death. He was a criminal, and she was an addict. They were from poor, broken families. It was their fault. They shouldn’t have been there. That’s easier than Canada facing its own colonial history. Canada is built on the theft and murder of Indigenous people. Colten and Tina’s cases are not isolated.
Systemic racism in our justice system is: When there is an all-white jury, judge, lawyers and accused in the trial of an Indigenous man’s murder.
Jurors are turned away if they look even remotely Indigenous.
When the RCMP raids the house of the deceased, telling Colten’s mother, asking Debbie Baptiste, “Have you been drinking?” They forced her up from the floor as she was reeling from the devastating news that her son was dead.
When Bruce MacArthur, a serial killer accused of murdering at least five gay men in Toronto’s Gay Village, is described as a “jovial grandfather” in a news headline but Colten is described as a “thug.”
When the media victim-blames Indigenous people. In the case of Tina Fontaine, a headline read: “Tina Fontaine had drugs, alcohol in system when she was killed.”
When Cindy Gladue’s pelvis was displayed in court for all to […]
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