It has been nine years since the death of Tina Fontaine and the discovery of her body in the Red River shocked Winnipeg and the entire country and led to demands for a national inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Now almost a decade after Fontaine’s death, many believe governments are doing very little to keep Indigenous women and girls safe in Canada, and to prevent them from meeting the same tragic fate as Tina Fontaine.

Fontaine was just 15 years old when she went missing in Winnipeg in the summer of 2014, and on Aug. 17 her 72-pound body was discovered in the Red River near the Alexander Docks wrapped in plastic and a duvet cover and weighed down by rocks.

The murder of the teenager, originally from the Sagkeeng First Nation, made headlines and sparked outrage in Winnipeg and across Canada, and soon after advocates and family members began demanding that a national inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada be called.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called an inquiry in 2015, and the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was released in 2019 containing 231 Calls for Justice directed at Canadian governments, institutions, social service providers, industries and all Canadians.

“These Calls for Justice are legal imperatives and represent important ways to end the genocide and to transform systemic and societal values that have worked to maintain colonial violence,” the final report states.

But the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) which represents and advocates for 34 First Nations communities in southern Manitoba, said they are concerned about the lack of progress by governments on those 231 calls, as they continue to see Indigenous women and girls in Manitoba going missing and being murdered.

“The tragic passing of Tina was a catalyst for the creation of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls,” SCO said in a media release, as the ninth anniversary of the discovery of Fontaine’s body approaches.

“After almost a decade, this national crisis continues with far too little action taken by governments.”

SCO said they are also concerned that some Canadians are not even aware of the contents and findings of the National Inquiry and the 231 Calls for Justice, and believe that the report is something that all Canadians should read and understand.

“To contribute to making change that supports the safety and human rights of First Nations people, SCO encourages all Canadians to read the 231 Calls for Justice that came out of the National Inquiry,” SCO said.

But as SCO calls for changes and for action, Indigenous women continue to suffer violent deaths here in Manitoba, and several high-profile cases in recent years have continued to put the spotlight on the safety and security of women and girls in Winnipeg and across the province.

In 2022 in Winnipeg, four Indigenous women, 24-year-old Rebecca Contois, 31-year-old Tessa Perry, and 25-year-old Doris Trout were all murdered in a span of just three weeks during the month of May.

And in December of 2022, Winnipeg police announced they believed that Contois, and three other Indigenous women, 39-year-old Morgan Harris, 26-year-old Marcedes Myran and an unidentified woman — being referred to as Buffalo Woman — were all allegedly murdered by the same man.

While speaking to the Winnipeg Sun earlier this year, NDP MLA and Sagkeeng First Nation member Nahanni Fontaine said despite the attention brought to MMIWG by Tina’s death nine years ago, she believes the issue is getting worse and not better.

“I would submit the issues of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited are exponentially worse than they have ever been,” she said.

And Fontaine said she wonders how governments can continue to take little action on the issue even after the release of the inquiry’s final report and the 231 Calls for Justice.

“The TRC unequivocally stated there is an ongoing genocide against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited, so one would think there would be more urgency by government to respond, but since its release, we’ve seen very little action or urgency,” she said.

A 53-year-old man was arrested for the death of Fontaine in December 2015 and charged with second-degree murder, but on Feb. 22, 2018, he was acquitted by a jury. There has never been a conviction in the death of Fontaine.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

By Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 14, 2023 at 14:43

This item reprinted with permission from    The Sun    Winnipeg, Manitoba
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