Roughly 50 people came out Sunday afternoon in a show of solidarity and support for the family of Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old First Nations girl who was murdered and later found wrapped in plastic and a duvet cover in Winnipeg’s Red River in 2014.
The man charged in Fontaine’s death pleaded not guilty to second degree murder during his trial which began January 29 of this year. He was later found not guilty on February 22, sparking outrage amongst many across the country disappointed in the verdict.
The Red Deer event was hosted by Red Feather Women, a local organization dedicated to keeping Native American culture alive through panel speaking, contemporary music, speeches, story-telling and other means. It took place in the parking lot of the Sacred Heart Parish Church and along the 49 Avenue Bridge. City councillors Dianne Wyntjes, Ken Johnston, Tanya Handley, Vesna Higham and former councilor Lynne Mulder were among those in attendance.
Red Feather Women member Teresa Cardinal said the event is essentially a way to honour Fontaine’s life and pray that this type of tragedy doesn’t happen again.
“That people become more aware of these issues and that we can come together and see the injustice that happens to Indigenous people, especially our most vulnerable as our children,” explained Cardinal. “As other Canadians, if you’re in this country, you put yourself in those shoes and if that was your child, what would you feel? I think about that as a mother, as well as growing up with cousins and sisters and systems such as Tina Fontaine.”
“She was in the child welfare system and she fell through the cracks and we need to do better,” added Cardinal.
Co-organizer and fellow Red Feather Woman Andrea Lacoursiere says participants on Sunday wrapped themselves in blankets for the walk as a symbol of security and comfort and also because Fontaine’s body was found wrapped in one when she was killed three and a half years ago.
“People are saying the system has failed,” she exclaimed. “The system has failed these kids in care, they’ve failed Indigenous people for centuries. The system hasn’t failed, the system has worked exactly the way it’s supposed to and that’s why we need to dismantle the system and start again.”
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