From left, Grand Chief Jerry Daniels, Southern Chiefs’ Organization, Chief Arlen Dumas, Chief Derrick Henderson of Sagkeeng, Chief Sheila North, and Chief Kevin Hart speak to media outside the law courts in Winnipeg after the jury delivered a not-guilty verdict in the second degree murder trial of Raymond Cormier, Thursday, February 22, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Hundreds march for justice in death of Winnipeg teen

Tina Fontaine was pulled from a river in 2014, her body wrapped in a blanket and weighed down by rocks

Hundreds marched through the streets of Winnipeg a day after a jury acquitted a man accused of killing a 15-year-old Indigenous girl whose body, wrapped in a blanket and weighed down by rocks, was pulled from a river.

The three-block-long march in support of Tina Fontaine’s family began Friday in front of the courthouse and wound its way to the spot at the Red River where the teen’s body was found in August 2014.

Supporters carried signs reading No Justice No Peace, Justice for All and Love for Tina.

On Thursday, a jury found Raymond Cormier, 56, not guilty of second-degree murder.

“We did what we could to bring justice for my baby girl,” Thelma Favel, Tina’s great-aunt who raised her, told the marchers. “Tina, I know, is beside me right now and she’s looking at you and appreciating everything that you’re doing.”

Indigenous leaders speaking at the march reiterated that social services and the justice system are failing Indigenous youth. Fontaine was in government care and was staying at a hotel when she disappeared.

“This is 2018. Canada, you’ve got to wake up. You talk about reconciliation. Now’s the time to do it,” said Chief Derrick Henderson of the Sagkeeng First Nation which was Tina’s home.

Anishinaabe elder Chickadee Richard said Indigenous youth must be protected.

“Tina represents our babies and our babies are not safe out there,” she said. ”There’s monsters out there hurting our babies and I wonder when is this going to stop.”

There were also calls for Cormier to face other charges related to his relationship with Tina.

“He should have been charged … for at least rape and exploitation,” said Marilyn Courchene, a Sagkeeng councillor.

The Crown had argued that a possible motive for the killing was that Cormier had found out how old Tina was. He admitted on undercover police tapes that he had sex with the teen and was heard saying he bet Tina was killed because he found out she was only 15.

The defence had argued that the tapes were hard to hear, that the transcriptions could be wrong and that Cormier’s denial to police of any involvement was the real truth.

There was no DNA evidence linking him to Tina and experts could not determine how she died.

Scott Newman, a spokesman for the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association of Manitoba, said the jury came to a just conclusion.

“There were significant holes in the case that the Crown simply wasn’t able to close. It’s unfortunate that Mr. Cormier was held in custody and put on trial for a case that was as weak as this,” Newman said Friday.

He said it could have saved lawyers a lot of trouble if Cormier had had a preliminary hearing to determine whether there was enough evidence to proceed. Instead, the Crown sent him directly to trial.

Newman said he’s not surprised at the outrage the case has stirred.

“The focus really needs to be on … how do we make sure that this doesn’t happen again? How are we going to protect future Tina Fontaines from finding themselves in a similar position?”

David Milward, an associate professor of law at the University of Manitoba, called the acquittal an injustice.

He said juries usually convict when they hear confessionary statements such as the ones Cormier made, even if there are other gaps in the case.

Before the Cormier verdict, Milward said, he always advised aspiring defence lawyers in his classes to do their utmost to get such remarks excluded so a jury never hears them.

“Because once it goes in, you’re pretty much cooked,” he said.

“But now it’s almost like I’m tempted to tell the class … except when an Aboriginal person’s a victim, and then apparently you don’t have anything to worry about.’”

— With files from Lauren Krugel in Calgary

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Comox Valley schools project student enrolment increase

Council briefs: School district board meeting, May 22

New look and name for Comox Valley school district

The Comox Valley school district is sporting a fresh look after the… Continue reading

Vanier basketball star earns scholarship with University of Saskatchewan Huskies

Levi Timmermans was the Towhees’ leading scorer and MVP this season, as well as an Island all-star

Hospice care to remain at The Views until purpose-built location is completed in 2020

The four community hospice beds at The Views facility at the St.… Continue reading

Vancouver Island girl scores with winning song for BC Summer Games

‘Colours’ is a perfect theme for 2018 BC Summer Games

B.C. pipeline goes ahead despite scrapped Pacific Northwest LNG

NEB approves amendment for $1.4-billion natural gas North Montney Mainline Project

Update: Wildfire northwest of Kamloops jumps from 60 to 800 hectares

Ground crews and aircraft are responding to an estimated 50 hectare wildfire approximately 55 kilometers northwest of Kamloops, near the Deadman Vidette Road.

Feds limit chinook fishery to help killer whale recovery

Chinook is main food source for only 76 southern residents killer whales left

B.C. mom who died just before daughter’s wedding wanted family to be happy: twin

Ann Wittenberg was pulled into the ocean while on a surf board in Tofino last weekend

Courtenay-Alberni MP calls for lifeguards at popular surf spot near Tofino

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is defending its decision to cancel the surf guard program.

Harvey Weinstein to surrender in sex misconduct probe: officials

Would be first criminal charge against Weinstein since scores of women came forward

Stage 3 water restrictions May 28 to June 1

The Comox Valley Water System will move to Stage 3 restrictions on… Continue reading

Fuel truck crash closes B.C. highway, sends two to hospital

Trans-Canada Highway reopens to traffic early Friday morning

Most Read