Another young aboriginal girl has been murdered. Tina Fontaine's body was found in the Red River in Winnipeg on Sunday August 17, after being reported missing on August 9th. Police are treating her death as a homicide; her body was found wrapped in a bag. Ms. Fontaine had been in foster care, and had previously run away but had always been found safely before. She had been in Winnipeg just a month.
The Conservative federal government again resists calls for a public inquiry. From the Winnipeg Free Press, bolding mine:
Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay said in a statement that "our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Ms. Fontaine at this very difficult time."
But MacKay again rejected an inquiry.
"Now is the time to take action, not to continue to study the issue," he said.
The government is addressing the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women in other ways such as through aboriginal justice programs and a national DNA missing person's index, MacKay added.
Still, calls for a national inquiry have been growing louder with every aboriginal woman who disappears or is discovered dead.
In May, the RCMP issued a detailed statistical breakdown of 1,181 cases since 1980. The report said aboriginal women make up 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population, but account for 16 per cent of female homicides and 11.3 per cent of missing women.
"Tina must not disappear into the oblivion of statistics: almost 1,200 missing and murdered aboriginal women over the past three decades," David Langtry, the acting chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, said in a statement issued Tuesday.
"This is not acceptable in a country like Canada. It is time for a full public inquiry into the root causes of so many deaths and disappearances of aboriginal women and girls. It is time for a national action plan to confront this issue." Full statement from Mr. Langtry here.
On Tuesday, August 12, the Manitoba government unveiled a monument to nearly 1,200 missing and murdered aboriginal women in Winnipeg, at the fork of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. It was just 5 days later that Ms. Fontaine's body was found, in that city, in one of those rivers. The heartbreak continues.
Nearly half of the women murdered in Manitoba since 1980 were aboriginal. I can't find statistics for foster care death rates nationwide, but 741 to 761 children have died while in Alberta foster care since 1999 (way more than the 56 children the province had initially acknowledged. See here for excellent coverage of the child foster care deaths in Alberta, including the incredibly high rate of Aboriginal child deaths, and the lifting of the publication ban just this July).*
Police are still asking for help in Ms. Fontaine's death. No charges have been laid, and they are asking for anyone who may have seen her to contact them.
A vigil will be held TONIGHT, Tuesday August 19, at 7 p.m. at the Alexander Docks off Waterfront Drive in Winnipeg. The vigil will be in memory of Ms. Fontaine, as well as in memory of Faron Hall, an aboriginal man whose body was pulled from the Red River just hours after Ms. Fontaine's was found. (Police are not treating his death as suspicious and do not believe foul play was involved.)
We MUST demand answers from our government for this ongoing tragedy. Sadly, Ms. Fontaine's death adds another digit to a heartbreaking number, and we continue to not receive answers. Yes, we want action, but show us some, dammit! Action that effects change! This cannot continue.
*If anyone has statistics or stories for Manitoba or nationwide, please comment and I will update this post.
Sources: Winnipeg Free Press, CTV Canada, CBC Manitoba, CBC Manitoba (vigil), National Post, CBC Manitoba (RCMP findings on statistics of violence against aboriginal women, May 2014), Edmonton Journal (Alberta foster care deaths).