Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fontaine's death 'a knife' to the heart

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TINA Fontaine has become a rallying point for members of the aboriginal community who are frustrated over the death of Fontaine and hundreds more aboriginal women.

But to Bryan Favel, Fontaine was a little sister. Her father was his cousin, but they were close enough that Favel counted her as a sibling.

Fontaine lived in CFS care with Favel's family, and though he didn't live with her, he saw her every weekend and holidays. She was a very nurturing person, Favel said. When she grew up, she wanted to become a CFS worker.

"She wants to help other kids the way she was helped," he said.

The death of Fontaine's father had a profound effect on her, Favel said. After he was slain, she became a different person, he said.

"It was hard for all of us. It just hit her the worst. She was very happy, very outgoing and then she just stopped. She stopped caring about school, everything," he said.

Favel thought the change was part of her becoming a teenager and decided to give her space. Looking back, he wishes he had maybe intervened more.

Fontaine was in foster care with Favel's mother and was happy there for awhile.

But she couldn't get closure about her father's death, Favel said, and she was transferred to another foster family in Winnipeg. Favel said she was not happy there, either.

When he heard Fontaine had died, Favel said it hit him hard.

"I'm just trying to hold back the tears. I'm here with her sister, and I want to be strong for her, but it feels like someone took a knife and stabbed me in the heart," he said.

Fontaine has joined the tragic list of hundreds of aboriginal women who have been murdered or are missing. Favel said Fontaine's death has put a face to the statistic, and now that he's in the middle of the issue, he said he's grateful to see more than 1,000 people attended a vigil on Tuesday night.

"I wasn't (expecting this)... To see random people that I don't even know come together, it's very special," he said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 20, 2014 A3

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