Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Slain teen's CFS file to be reviewed

Fontaine placed in city foster home, had run away before

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Lana Fontaine, an aunt of Tina Fontaine (below), weeps at a memorial near the Red River where the 15-year-old's body was recovered Sunday.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Lana Fontaine, an aunt of Tina Fontaine (below), weeps at a memorial near the Red River where the 15-year-old's body was recovered Sunday. Photo Store

MANITOBA'S Children's Advocate will investigate the involvement of the child-welfare system in the last weeks of Tina Fontaine's life.

"The public system needs to constantly be reviewing itself," spokeswoman Ainsley Krone said. "The process that we are able to undertake is able to gather information and analyze it from the perspective of the child and to make recommendations that will hopefully prevent deaths in similar circumstances for other children."

By law, the office investigates all child deaths in the province, and has the authority to conduct special investigations if Child and Family Services was involved in the child's life, Krone said, adding the focus of the probe is to look at the quality and the type of service that was provided to Fontaine.

She said there is no time frame for the investigation.

"We want to make sure that when we're making formal recommendations that they are backed with a lot of rationale why we think that systems need to change," she said.

Copies of the final report will be sent to the minister of family services, the chief medical examiner and the provincial ombudsman, whose office tracks the progress of recommendations made by the Children's Advocate.

Fontaine, 15, was a ward of Child and Family Services for about a month. Her body was recovered from the Red River Sunday. It was wrapped in a bag.

'It just gets tiring after a while to see the suffering, the human suffering, and no answers coming to the families about what happened to their loved ones' -- Manitoba Aboriginal Affairs Minister Eric Robinson

Police issued a public alert Aug. 13 after she had been reported missing from a Winnipeg foster home. She was last seen downtown Aug. 8.

Fontaine, of Sagkeeng First Nation, had a history of running away and had only been in Winnipeg for a month before her disappearance.

Police have said she was slain and issued a plea for information in the case.

Her death has also reignited calls for a national inquiry into missing and slain aboriginal women.

Manitoba Aboriginal Affairs Minister Eric Robinson told The Canadian Press his first thought when he heard about Fontaine's death was "not another one."

"It just gets tiring after a while to see the suffering, the human suffering, and no answers coming to the families about what happened to their loved ones," Robinson said Tuesday.

"It's just saddening to see the families continue to suffer."

He said a national inquiry into missing and slain aboriginal women is the only way many families will get the answers they deserve. The Native Women's Association of Canada supports an inquiry.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government has rejected the idea.

"They don't view it as a priority," Robinson added. "I don't know what their policy advisers are telling them."

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."

MacKay again rejected an inquiry.

"Now is the time to take action, not to continue to study the issue," he said.

The federal government is addressing the issue of in other ways, such as through aboriginal justice programs and a national DNA index for missing persons, MacKay added.

In May, the RCMP issued a 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.

The Free Press has reported that in the last three years, 28 children have committed suicide while under the supervision of social workers and six children with open or recently closed child welfare case files were killed in homicides in the last three years.

Progressive Conservative critic MLA Ian Wishart said Fontaine's death not only raises questions about the quality of care she received from Child and Family Services, but the ability of CFS to marshall appropriate resources.

"We don't know a great deal about what's happened here as is always the case with CFS issues," Wishart said. "But clearly, the services that she needed were not being provided. We pushed her into a vulnerable position."

Wishart said if anything is to be learned by Fontaine's death, it's that the system needs to do a better job of protecting vulnerable children.

"There are clearly predators out there, but there also needs to be more accountability," he said.

"There are literally more than 1,000 recommendations that have been made in 10 to 12 years from coroner's inquests. We don't know where any of them are at. Just coming out with more recommendations is not a great solution."

 

-- With files from The Canadian Press

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 20, 2014 B4

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