'Calm before the storm' as jury deliberates on Raymond Cormier murder trial: MKO grand chief

The leader of a group representing Manitoba First Nations says while she can't predict the verdict the jury will reach in the second-degree murder trial of Raymond Cormier, she knows the outcome will be hard on the family of victim Tina Fontaine.

Cormier has pleaded not guilty in 2014 death of Tina Fontaine, 15

Sheila North, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakinak, says justice must be done for Tina Fontaine. (CBC)

The leader of a group representing Manitoba First Nations says while she can't predict the verdict a jury will reach in the second-degree murder trial of Raymond Cormier, she knows the outcome will be hard on the family of victim Tina Fontaine.

"Someone has to be responsible for it, and whether it's Cormier himself or someone, someone needs to be taken into justice and handled by the law for taking an innocent life like that," Sheila North, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, told reporters on Wednesday after the jury began deliberations.

"And it's heartbreaking to see the family and the friends and the supporters there to hear all those details over and over again," she said. "This is a calm before the storm. Whatever happens — whatever the turnout is — is going to be devastating either way."

Cormier, 56, has pleaded not-guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Fontaine, a 15-year-old girl from Sagkeeng First Nation, in 2014. Her 72-pound body was pulled from the Red River near the Alexander Docks on Aug. 17 that year.

Crown and defence wrapped up their closing arguments on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Court of Queen's Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal gave the jury of seven women and four men instructions before deliberations began.

Deliberations continued until 9:15 p.m. Wednesday. Jurors will resume deliberations on Thursday.

Tina Fontaine, 15, was found dead in the Red River on Aug. 17, 2014. (Winnipeg Police Service)

North says the verdict, when it's delivered, will be hard on the family regardless of what it is.

"I hope that the rest of Canada is looking at this as a chance for all of us to reconcile," she said.

"Because I think what happened to Tina actually brought a lot of Canadians together, and started to realize this issue is real, and it's happening to real people that are affected every day like this."

'I couldn't stand being in there'

Marilyn Courchene, a councillor in Sagkeeng First Nation, says the details of the case and emotional outbursts she heard in court were difficult to deal with.

"It's a heartbreaking story. I couldn't stand being in there. None of us could," she said.

Marilyn Courchene, a Sagkeeng First Nation councillor, says it was heartbreaking to be in court during the proceedings. (CBC)

Courchene says she wants to see justice done by the jury.

"I'm just hoping that they don't make a decision so hastily or fast, [that] they take their time, that they're calm about every situation that was said," she said. "We're talking about a life of a child here. We're talking about, you know, a child that was taken advantage of."

"It's important to remember that we're talking about a real live child that this happened to and she's not a statistic to us," North said.

North says emotions are running high around the case, especially in the wake of the recent not-guilty verdict for Gerald Stanley in the death of Colten Boushie, a young Indigenous man in Saskatchewan — but it has been especially hard on Tina's family.

"I know that the family, especially Thelma, she doesn't want any more violence. She doesn't want any more injustices, she doesn't want any more grief," North said.

"She wants to be healed and I think that's what we all have to remember, is that we have to keep the peace and maintain the peace no matter what."

Corrections

  • We initially wrote that Marilyn Courchene is chief of Sagkeeng First Nation. In fact, she is a councillor. We initially reported that the jury finished deliberations at 10 p.m. on Wednesday. They actually finished deliberating at 9:15 p.m.
    Feb 22, 2018 8:43 AM CT