Tina Fontaine, 15, was found deceased and wrapped in plastic in the Red River on Aug. 17, 2014.
Winnipeg homicide investigators arrested New Brunswick native Raymond Cormier in the Vancouver area on Dec. 9. The charge of second-degree murder laid against him has not been proven in court.
News of the discovery of Fontaine’s body reverberated nationwide and renewed calls for an inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women. Fontaine was reported missing Aug. 9, 2015 after she ran away from the hotel where she was staying as a ward of Child and Family Services.
She had several encounters with Cormier and both frequented the same eastside house, the city’s deputy chief of police, Danny Smyth, said Friday. He said the investigation was long and complicated, in part because it was difficult to track Fontaine’s movements in the days leading up to her murder. It involved forensic investigation, interviews and covert operations.
“The murder of this child, and let’s not forget she was a child, has shocked and outraged our community, and I think that outrage has resonated across our nation,” Smyth said. “Investigators know Tina was highly vulnerable and was exploited during her time on the run.”
Smyth said Cormier had an extensive criminal history including convictions for violent offences, and has been in and out of prison most of his adult life. Police believe he killed Fontaine on the last of several encounters with her. Smyth would not elaborate on the nature of their relationship.
They are not looking for any other suspects.
Smyth said he hoped the announcement would bring some closure to Fontaine’s family. An outpouring of support began after the police press conference. Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman thanked police and said he hoped the arrest would bring “long-awaited peace” in a tweet.
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson said in a press release her heart goes out to Fontaine’s friends and family.
“I pray they feel a sense of relief despite the horrible tragedy they’re going through right now,” she said. “For the community I imagine it brings all kinds of emotions once again but I hope they find some sense of peace knowing one more perpetrator is off our streets.”
Indigenous women still a target
Terry Villeneuve, who sits on the Native Women’s Association of the NWT, says indigenous women are more likely to be killed in the Northwest Territories.
“In the NWT, there were up to 20 cases of missing and murdered women in the past 30 years, and 17 of those were Aboriginal,” she said. “That means 85 per cent were Aboriginal, even though only 50 per cent of the population is made up of Aboriginal people.”
From 1980 to 2014, police services across Canada reported 6,849 homicides involving female victims. For that same period, Aboriginal female victims accounted for 16 per cent (1,073) of all female victims of homicide.
Since 1991, however, the number of non-Aboriginal female homicide victims has been shrinking, driving the proportion of Aboriginal female homicide victims up, from 14 per cent in that year to 21 per cent in 2014.
In the NWT there were four homicides in 2014, up one from 2013; according to the RCMP, there have been five homicides so far in 2015, including that of May Elanik, found outdoors in Aklavik Nov. 11.
“Acquaintance homicide” was more common among non-Aboriginal female victims than Aboriginal female victims (14 per cent versus 8 per cent), while stranger homicide was similar between the two (five per cent versus four per cent).