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

Langley hosting high-flying fun at annual gymnastics tournament

Action runs Friday through Sunday at the Langley Events Centre fieldhouse.

BREAKING: Plecas won’t run in next election if legislature oversight reforms pass

B.C. Speaker and Abbotsford South MLA says he feels ‘great sympathy’ for Jody Wilson-Raybould

Langley Secondary students rehearse upcoming musical comedy

The Langley Secondary Musical Theatre Company presents Guys and Dolls on Feb. 22.

Guatemala mission offers hope, health

Peninsula team to visit remote villages, build a home, in Piedra Blanca

Cloverdale nurse, Langley truck driver awarded for saving a police officer’s life

Angela Feltrin and Earl Hanes thanked by B.C. RCMP’s top cop

VIDEO: How much snow do you have?

Langley residents are being asked to share images of their snow to enter for a $20 coffee card.

B.C. couple attacked with acid, slashed with knife in Vietnam

Warning, graphic images: Man has burns on 80 per cent of his body, slashed with knife

Flying squirrels found to glow pink in the dark, including two from B.C.

Squirrels from Hope and Abbotsford were included in the biologists’ database

Ontario police field complaints over Amber Alert for missing girl, 11, found dead

Some said the Amber Alert issued late Thursday for Riya Rajkumar disrupted their sleep

Man taken to hospital for smoke inhalation, burns after fire at RV park

Firefighters find man suffering from smoke inhalation, burns to face and hands: battalion chief

Northern B.C. First Nation clan says ancient tools found at pipeline work site

Archeologists from the Smithsonian Institute estimate one of the stones found dates back up to 3500 years

Wilson-Raybould resignation stokes anger, frustration within veterans community

Liberals have had three veterans-affairs ministers — Kent Hehr, Seamus O’Regan and Wilson-Raybould

No Center of Gravity festival in Kelowna this summer: organizers

COG organizers said the hope is to return to the Okanagan in 2020

Most Read