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  • Thursday's not-guilty verdict following the death of the 15-year-old member of the Sagkeeng First Nation was met with outrage, but not surprise.

    Thursday's not-guilty verdict following the death of the 15-year-old member of the Sagkeeng First Nation was met with outrage, but not surprise. | Photo: Twitter / brycehoye

Published 23 February 2018
Opinion

Thursday's not-guilty verdict following the death of the 15-year-old member of the  Sagkeeng First Nation was met with anger and outrage, but not surprise.

Hundreds marched in the Canadian city of Winnipeg on Friday after Raymond Cormier, 56, was acquitted of the second-degree murder of Indigenous 15-year-old Tina Fontaine.

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Beginning outside the court, the demonstration looped past the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and ended at Oodena Circle, a sacred First Nations site, with protesters chanting "We want justice!"

Fontaine's great-aunt Thelma Favel, who raised Tina for more than a decade, addressed the crowd: "My son and my husband, we did what we could to bring justice to my baby girl."

The verdict, reached late Thursday, was met with anger and outrage but not surprise. Just two weeks earlier, White farmer Gerald Stanley was found not guilty in the murder of 22-year-old Indigenous man Colten Boushie, in nearby Saskatchewan.

"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."

Cormier, whose criminal record includes violent offenses, was believed to be an acquaintance of Fontaine's. Experts testified that they can't conclude how Fontaine was killed due to a lack of forensic evidence, but the Crown did submit audio recordings they tried to argue were admissions of guilt.

In one recording, Cormier is heard saying: "15-year-old girl fuck. I drew the line and that's why she got killed. She got killed, I'll make you a bet. She got killed because we found out, I found out she was 15 years old.

In another, addressing a woman, he says: "You ever been haunted by something? What happened there really fucking it's not right. Fuck. It's right on the shore. So what do I do? Threw her in."

Fontaine's body was found in Winnipeg's Red River on Aug. 17, 2014, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down by rocks, just days after she had been reported missing. Originally from the Sagkeeng First Nation, she had left her great-aunt's home to visit her birth mother.

On the day she was last seen, she came into contact with paramedics, police, security officers and staff at the Children's Hospital and CFS, under whose protection she had been at the time.

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Leah Gazan, a social justice advocate and Indigenous studies instructor at the University of Winnipeg, told CBC: "We have a justice system right now that's clearly different, depending on who you are, between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.

"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."

More marches are planned for the coming weeks.

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