Tina Fontaine's cousins lived parallel lives, don't feel safe in Winnipeg

Tina Fontaine's cousins are struggling with the teen's death and thinking about the parallels between their young lives.

Tina Fontaine's cousins speak out about their lives in Winnipeg

Tina Fontaine's cousins are struggling with the teen's death and thinking about the parallels between their young lives 2:39

Tina Fontaine's cousins are struggling with the teen's murder and thinking about the parallels between their young lives.

"My heart sunk in because every time we'd go to Sagkeeng, [Tina] was the one that was there for me," said Rose Fontaine, Tina's 15-year-old cousin. 

Rose, her triplet sister Angel and older sister Katie Fontaine lived in Sagkeeng First Nation about 120 kilometres northeast of the city for six years. 

They have also been wards of Child and Family Services — apprehended twice, separated and shuffled between numerous homes in Manitoba.

"Meeting new people. it's so hard. because you didn't know who they were," said Angel, 15.

Katie, now 18, said she ran away from foster homes twice and like Tina, she started going down the wrong path in Sagkeeng, at the age of 14.

"Getting in trouble with the cops and drinking at a young age," Katie said, "Getting into drugs and that. I guess that's all there is to do out there. So I'm kind of glad my dad was able to get us back out here."

From left: Tina Fontaine's cousins, Angel, Jolene, Katie and Rose are from Sagkeeng First Nation.
Katie turned things around after leaving CFS care. Her family was reunited and set down roots in Winnipeg in 2012. Her eight younger siblings are her priority now.

"I just had the will power I guess. It's just not worth it. I started going to school, and I'm in a carpentry class and we're renovating a house with [R.B. Russell Vocational School] and I like that. I enjoy it. So I'd rather do that. And instead of going out drinking, I bring my brothers and sisters home," Katie said.

They have fears living in Winnipeg too. They don't think indigenous women are safe on the streets.

In all the missing and murdered women cases CBC tracked, one-third of the victims were under 20 years of age.

Angel said she's been followed. Rose said someone actually tried to grab her. 

"As soon as I tried to walk away he started grabbing me, and I pushed him off. And when I turned around he yelled, 'I have money!' And I said, 'I don't care about your money'. I think guys just think girls would do it for the money but that's not true," Rose said.

"I don't usually go out by myself. I am too scared," Katie said.

That fear isn't enough to make them want to return back to Sagkeeng. 

"Not to talk down on my family, there's a lot of our family that are into the drugs out there. So it's not a really good place to live and look up to your relatives out there," Katie said.

They want things to change back home. 

"Take away the prescription pills because I think that's the big problem out there is the pills — with everybody," she said.

The girls want Sagkeeng's leadership to step up and focus more attention on youth driven programs and hold more events to bring the community together.

Sagkeeng's new chief Derek Henderson said he's already found room in his budget to hire a recreation director.

That job will be to create evening programs for youth in the community's three gyms.
 
The girls said if changes aren't made, more young lives could end like Tina's.