CityinThree

On February 24th Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail and members of Wabi’s Village: A Community of Hearts took to Highway 417 for a...

On February 24th Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail and members of Wabi’s Village: A Community of Hearts took to Highway 417 for a Spirit Walk in memory of Canada’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Men, and Boys.  In loud and proud voices they made clear what they were looking for while blocking traffic from the Queensway.

The trauma of colonialism still has effects that can be seen in today’s Indigenous communities in its high rates of poverty, substance abuse, domestic abuse, and the frightening number of missing and murdered individuals. Their concerns are not unreasonable or unfounded. Canada’s systems do not give Indigenous individuals the independence, respect, protection, and justice that they deserve.

 “We want our own laws implemented, our own justice system implemented, our own ways of the pipe, our own people running an inquiry for MMIWG/MB. Quite clearly this inquiry that we have worked so hard for has been colonially co-opted, and it has become another means of commodifying Indigenous misery. It is a means of the settler earning a living off the memory of our loved ones.”

- Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail

#JusticeforTina

Tina Fontaine was only 15 when her body was found in the Red River. This Sagkeeng First Nation teen experienced more hardship than most have to go through in a lifetime. When she was a toddler her mother, struggling with alcoholism, left her and her sister Sarah in the care of their father. When she was 4 her father was diagnosed with cancer which left the girls to be raised by their great aunt and uncle. When she was 12 her father was beaten by two men, tied up and left for dead behind a garden shed. Just before Tina’s death she was coping with writing a victim impact statement for her father’s trial. Her great-aunt tried to organize counselling for her after her father’s death but she was turned away from various Child and Family Services agencies.

 

For the six weeks that Tina was in Winnipeg she was couch surfing. She was in and out of shelters, group homes and hotels, even approaching strangers on the street for a place to stay. She met Raymond Cormier during this time. He provided her with drugs and made numerous sexual advances towards her even though she was a minor. On August 6th Tina and Raymond argued, he had sold her bike in exchange for drugs and his sexual advances were making her uncomfortable.  In response, Tina called 911 to report that Raymond had stolen a truck earlier that day. In the early morning of August 8th two police officers came in contact with Tina who at this time, was already reported as missing and at risk but they decided to let her go. Later that day Tina was found unconscious in a parking lot. Paramedics were called and she was taken to the ER where it was later found that she had methamphetamine, cocaine, gabapentin, alcohol, and marijuana in her system. Four hours later the hospital released her to Child and Family Services. A social worker brought Tina to a hotel which she left to meet a friend. Her friend last saw Tina walking away with a man who offered her cash in exchange for sexual services. On August 17th her body was pulled from a river wrapped in plastic and a duvet cover, weighed down by 11 kgs of stones. Witnesses testified to immediately recognizing that Raymond Cormier owned the same type of duvet Tina was found in. He was charged with second-degree murder but ultimately acquitted of her death.

 She was only 15. She shouldn’t have had to go through everything that she did. In her short life Canadian systems and society repeatedly failed her. Yet since her passing, nothing has changed. Tina Fontaine’s story is a perfect example of how “colonial solutions to colonial problems” are inadequate.