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 golfers prepare for another 55+ Games

Competition, camaraderie name of the game

Comox Valley firefighters assist with wildfire effort

Four Courtenay firefighters are in Fort St. James helping with the fight… Continue reading

Woman rescued from Stotan Falls calling for safety measures

3L Developments did not comment on immediate plans to add safety precautions

B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

This is only the fourth state of emergency ever issued during a fire season

More than 22,000 blood donors needed

Canadian Blood Services is urging Canadians to help meet patients’ needs this… Continue reading

Updated: ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin has died

Publicist Gwendolyn Quinn reports Franklin passed Thursday at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit

B.C. golfer, just 23, scores the rare albatross

Six-million-to-one shot a first for the Terrace club

Fredericton widow swears at Trudeau during condolence call

Widow of man killed in Fredericton shooting says she swore at Trudeau during condolence call.

Tim Hortons promises leaky lids on coffee cups to be phased out

Tim Hortons looks to rebuild its brand with better lid, new marketing campaign

‘There’s been a lot of devastation:’ man whose family lost homes in B.C. fire

The provincial government declared a state of emergency Wednesday as more than 550 wildfires burn in every corner of B.C.

Capsized tug now out of the water at the mouth of B.C.’s Fraser River

The 19-metre-long George H. Ledcor capsized late Monday.

Aheadbyacentury looking for Triple Crown breakthrough in the Breeders’ Stakes

The consistent Aheadbyacentury has $513,800 in career earnings, including $311,250 this year thanks in large part to his Triple Crown performances.

Independent Investivations Office looking into Sayward crash

An incident in which a vehicle under RCMP scrutiny crashed near Sayward… Continue reading

Most Read