Tina Fontaine’s family prepares for slain teen's funeral
15-year-old girl's body found in a bag in Winnipeg’s Red River last weekend
Tina Fontaine's family were preparing to say their final goodbyes Saturday afternoon to the 15-year-old girl who was found dead in the Red River in Winnipeg last weekend.
Police believe the young aboriginal woman was killed.
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Her funeral is being held Saturday afternoon in her home community of the Sagkeeng First Nation, located about 93 kilometres by road northeast of Winnipeg.
Thelma Favel, the girl's great-aunt and guardian, said this has been the worst week of her life.
"I can't even hold her, hold her hand. I can't touch her little pretty face just to say goodbye," said Favel.
On Friday, the family made offerings of tobacco around a sacred fire in a special ceremony to honour Tina.
The fire is meant to represent Tina's spirit, so she can be with her family as they say goodbye.
Guardian last saw teen in July
Favel raised Tina for 11 years and last saw her on July 1.
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"She was awesome. That's not the Tina I see in the papers. That's not the Tina I ever, ever knew," said Favel.
The teen had gone to Winnipeg to visit her estranged mother.
Favel said Tina had been acting out in the months before she disappeared and wouldn't come home. Favel knew she needed help, so she contacted a Child and Family Services (CFS) and requested that the agency take custody of Tina.
CFS located Tina at some point after July 1 and placed her in foster care in Winnipeg.
Favel has said it wasn't clear when the teen was placed in foster care or when she disappeared. She was reported missing to police on Aug. 9, more than a week before her body was found.
"Even though she was in the system for that short little time, it didn't take long for her to fall through the cracks," said Favel.
Tina still struggling to deal with father's violent death
Favel said she wasn't notified that Tina was missing until she had already been gone for two weeks.
Two days after Favel was told of her disappearance, Tina's body was found in a bag in the Red River. Police have not released specific details about how she was found, including the type of bag that was involved.
Favel said she isn't blaming CFS, but she just wants to know what happened to Tina.
"I just want them to know when people phone for help, they really need help," she said. "They don't phone for nothing."
Noella Fontaine, Tina's grandmother, said her family had asked CFS to get counselling for Tina but that never happened.
Tina was still dealing with the violent beating death of her father three years earlier.
"She didn't grieve for him when we had the body. She didn't show no emotions. She was just holding it in," said Fontaine.
The death of the Winnipeg teen has also refocused attention on the still unsolved cases of hundreds of missing or murdered aboriginal women in Canada, with many First Nations communities and women's and aboriginal rights advocates, including the Canadian Human Rights Commission, calling for a national public inquiry.
The government of Stephen Harper, however, has rejected these calls, with Harper saying as recently as this week that the cases are strictly a police matter and do not warrant a wider inquiry.
"We should not view this as a sociological phenomenon. We should view it as crime," Harper said Thursday during a tour of Canada's North.
Other politicians, including Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger, have criticized this view and said the issue needs to be addressed on a national level.