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Talking about Tina: 'When I was growing up, I needed those conversations and they weren't there'

Matthew Shorting, who is from the Little Saskatchewan First Nation, is a father and community justice worker in Winnipeg. He works with youth who have been impacted by Child and Family Services (CFS) and the justice system. He understands their stories because, like them, he grew up in the child welfare system.
Matthew Shorting, a community justice worker, grew up in the child welfare system. 'It created a lot of trauma.' (Tyson Anderson)

When Matthew Shorting heard about the death of Tina Fontaine, it brought up familiar feelings.

Shorting, who is from the Little Saskatchewan First Nation, is a father and community justice worker in Winnipeg. He works with youth who have been impacted by Child and Family Services (CFS) and the justice system. He understands their stories because, like them, he grew up in the child welfare system.

"Being in care you feel longing for your community, longing for love, for your mother, for your father," said Shorting. "And feeling pulled away from them brings a lot of grief."

"All I wanted was to be with my family and my community. And she was looking for that."

'Our youth are just looking really for connection and for love.'

Shorting was taken from his family when he was a baby, and placed in 11 different foster homes before he was six-years-old. Then he was in a home for three years, before being moved to another one for three more years. Once he turned 15, Shorting was moved to a group home until he turned 18.

"My experience with CFS was very much one where I was physically taking care of it," explained Shorting. "But my emotional, my mental, my spiritual were very much lacking."

Shorting said he's still working through the after effects of growing up in care. 

"It created a lot of trauma," he said. "A lot of those experiences become frozen in your body and they come out in behaviours and the way you relate with people."

Talking to his daughter about Tina Fontaine​

After hearing about Fontaine's death, Shorting said his first thoughts were of his own nine-year-old daughter. 

He thought about issues around self-esteem, who her support network is, what environment she goes into and spoke to her about safety. "Those conversations I had with my daughter, I also knew that I needed to be speaking in the community about because when I was growing up, I needed those conversations and they weren't there for me."

For Shorting, Tina Fontaine's legacy is a reminder of the harsh reality that youth in the child welfare system face, and a reminder of the changes that need to happen.

"It always seems like we need a crisis to happen before people are listening," said Shorting.  

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