Time to let Tina Fontaine rest, cousin says, 4 years after grim discovery

A family member of Tina Fontaine's is planning to let her memorial site be.

Too many Indigenous women still stricken by violence, death, say supporters who march for more than themselves

Melissa Stevenson drums at the Alexander Docks after a memorial feast for Tina Fontaine Friday. She says a disproportionately high number of Indigenous women and girls are stricken by violence and death. (Rudy Gauer/CBC)

A family member of Tina Fontaine's says it's time to stop visiting her memorial site. 

"I was told by an elder that it is time to let her rest now," said Kattie-Lee Fontaine, on the fourth anniversary of the 15-year-old's girl body being pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg.

The number four, she said, holds great significance in Indigenous tradition.

On Friday, four years after the grim discovery, the Fontaines wanted to usher in healing for their family and held a feast to bring the community together.

Afterwards, they marched. Dozens walked that evening from the Indigenous Family Centre on Selkirk Avenue to Tina's memorial site along the former Alexander Docks, where they laid wooden butterflies, flowers, candles and teddy bears as nightfall draped over them.

Mourners laid flowers, lights and wooden butterfly signs at the memorial for Tina Fontaine, located at the Alexander Docks, on Friday. (Rudy Gauer/CBC)

Melissa Stevenson helped organize the potluck and walk, which was the idea of four of Fontaine's cousins.

She met Tina herself when the "bubbly girl" was just four years old, then enjoying the children's group at the Indigenous Family Centre in Winnipeg.

Her death, which galvanized calls for a national inquiry into the plight of murdered and missing Indigenous women, needs to represent something more, she said.

"Because it continues to happen, our native women are disproportionately susceptible to violence every day," she said. "Out of my group of 12 kids, I've lost four kids of my beginning [children's] group. That's a little detail on how many actually go missing, how many actually lose their life to violence — that's too much."

In 2007, the body of 17-year-old Fonessa Bruyere was found on the outskirts of Winnipeg. Her murder is still unsolved.

In 2011, 15-year-old Clark Stevenson was stabbed to death by another youth.

Four years ago, Tina's 72-pound body, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down by rocks, was pulled from the Red River. In February, a jury acquitted Raymond Cormier in the 15-year-old's death. That sparked rallies across the country.

Another murder left the small group of family and friends utterly devastated.

Last year, 29-year-old Jeanenne Fontaine, Tina's cousin and a mother of three, was shot dead. Her body was found in her home which had been set ablaze. Three men have been charged.

Born out of Tina's death was one positive, the re-emergence of the Bear Clan Patrol in the city.

Marchers make their way down Selkirk Avenue toward the Alexander Docks after a potluck feast for Tina Fontaine on Friday. (Rudy Gauer/CBC)

Members of the street patrol joined the walk Friday with Tina's family, friends and supporters.

"It's almost like renewing our commitment to make sure that Tina's passing was not in vain," said Mario Cueto, a director with Bear Clan Patrol.

Otherwise, Kattie-Lee Fontaine says, not enough has changed in the years since Tina was found, wrapped in a duvet cover. Too many Indigenous women die at the hands of violence, she said.

Justice sought

She clings to hope that someone will be held responsible for Tina's death. The family is haunted by a jury's decision earlier this year that the man accused in her death, Raymond Cormier, is not guilty of second-degree murder.

"Hopefully they get enough guilt to see how much my family is hurting, because it takes a lot out of us," she said.

"We want justice. I want to know what's happened because it's still breaking me."

"The killer is still out there," Tina's sister, Samantha Fontaine, added. "He could be hurting another little girl."

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter at CBC Manitoba. He previously wrote about rural Manitoba for the Brandon Sun and the Carillon in Steinbach. Story idea? Email ian.froese@cbc.ca.

With files from Rudy Gauer, Ismaila Alfa and The Canadian Press