'There's no justice for us:' Calgary rally shows support for Tina Fontaine's family
On Thursday, the man accused of murdering Fontaine, a 15-year-old girl from Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba, was found not guilty.
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For the second time in just as many weeks, Calgarians rallied for justice after the death of another Indigenous youth has gone unpunished.
Tina Fontaine was a 15-year-old girl from the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba. Left in the care of child and family services, Fontaine was reported missing to Winnipeg police in 2014. Just over a week later her body was found in the Red River, wrapped in a comforter and weighed down with stones.
Raymond Cormier, the man accused of her murder, was found not guilty on Thursday, Feb. 22, by a Winnipeg jury.
More than 300 people gathered at Calgary’s Olympic Plaza on Sunday, Feb. 25 to show support for Fontaine’s family. Many wore blankets at the request of the family, which represent comfort and honour. Though the painful symbolism was not lost on those who recognized that a blanket was the only comfort Fontaine was given in death.
“Hurt,” said Elmira Deschamps of Treaty 6 Territory in Alberta, when asked how she felt about marching again.
She said it’s important for all Canadians to acknowledge not only the deaths of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine, but also the decades of abuse and injustice against Indigenous people in Canada.
Speakers at the Calgary rally were themselves affected by stories much like Fontaine’s. They described the countless members of their own families and community who were lost and who numbered among the hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
“Canadians themselves are outraged by this. It would be very impactful if that got some coverage. Actually asking somebody not Indigenous: how do you feel about over 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women,” said Lowa Beebe, one of the organizers of the rally.
“There is nothing there that is protective of our people, of our young people and of our vulnerable people. Every single case talks about what the victim did wrong. Every single case is attacking the victim,” said Beebe.
“Why are we targeted? The Trail of Tears is a real testament to that — because nobody would go look for us. There’s no justice for us. Even if someone confesses, there’s no justice for us.”
Janais Turuk was skating with her niece at Olympic Plaza when they decided to stop and observe the rally.
“It’s an opportunity to start educating (my niece) about missing and murdered Indigenous women,” said Turuk.
Turuk, who is not Indigenous, said solidarity can be shown by non-Indigenous people.
"By coming out, and supporting and really thinking about how you can put reconciliation into action in your own way and every day,” she said.
Beebe said despite the heartbreaking circumstances, the rallies are a sort of "modern day revolution" and will carry on.
“All of us, across the country, we’re on the same page in the Indigenous way. And what’s so great and what’s so unbelievably powerful is that we have Canadians this time as well,” she said.
“It’s on the national stage because our people have put it on the national stage. But this is no different than what has been going on decade after decade, year after year. The only thing that’s different is that we’re saying we’re done waiting for action. We are done listening to promises,” said Beebe.
“The entire world is actually watching this,” she said. “The outpouring of support and love our people are getting is unprecedented. But at the same time, we live in this daily — being treated this way in this system.
“Across Canada, when one of us falls, we all feel it. We are so extremely connected.”