Tina Fontaine report is a 'post-mortem on the misery' of First Nations: advocate

On Tuesday, Manitoba's Advocate for Children and Youth Daphne Penrose released her report into the 2014 death of Tina Fontaine. We ask if its recommendations go far enough to protect vulnerable Indigenous youth, and hear from one expert who says First Nations need more control in those efforts.

Lack of Indigenous input can mean reports often 'more detrimental than good', says Cora Morgan

The body of Tina Fontaine, 15, was pulled from Winnipeg's Red River on Aug. 17, 2014. No one has ever been convicted in her death. (Facebook)
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A new report into the death of Tina Fontaine further highlights the need for First Nations to be empowered and funded to help vulnerable youth in their communities, according to one advocate.

"We have the means to be able to do these things ourselves, however continually government funds itself to be able to give the post-mortem on the misery of our First Nations people," said Cora Morgan, the First Nations family advocate at the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

Morgan was speaking to The Current's guest host Piya Chattopadhyay about a report released by Manitoba's Advocate for Children and Youth Daphne Penrose on Tuesday into the death of Fontaine, a 15-year-old Indigenous girl, five years ago.

"The province keeps on churning out these reforms, and to me a lot of times they're more detrimental than good," said Morgan.

"Some of them, they sound good, but when you get down to the roots of things, they're not really that beneficial, and that's because that engagement with First Nations has never meaningfully taken place."

Advocate Daphne Penrose said the changes she recommends need to be acted upon quickly to prevent other children from facing the same barriers as Tina Fontaine. 2:07

Fontaine lived with her great aunt and great uncle on Sagkeeng First Nation, but was visiting her mother in Winnipeg when she ran away. Over the following six weeks in the city, she was in contact with police, hospital staff, and child and family services.

Her body was found dumped in Winnipeg's Red River on Aug. 17, 2014. No one has been convicted of her murder, and her story sparked a national outcry over missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Penrose reviewed the services provided to Fontaine before her death, and made five recommendations to prevent a similar situation from happening again.

The report suggested it was "a system-wide failure," said Scott Fielding, the province's former minister of families, and current finance minister.

"Everyone bears some responsibility," he told Chattopadhyay.

We ... want to ensure a situation like this, with Tina, really never happens again, where someone is able to fall through the cracks of the system.- Scott Fielding

Fielding said that Manitoba's Conservative government had taken strong action to improve child welfare, including the Protecting Children Act, which allows police and other services to share information about at-risk youth.

"We as a government really want to ensure a situation like this, with Tina, really never happens again, where someone is able to fall through the cracks of the system," he said.

Following the report's release, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs renewed a call for an independent inquiry into Fontaine's death. Premier Brian Pallister responded that he wants the province to focus on the recommendations and move on.

Click 'listen' near the top of the page to hear the full conversation.


Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Idella Sturino and Imogen Birchard.