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Staying put 'til inquiry called

Sagkeeng heartbroken at funeral for slain teen

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Protesters at a camp in Memorial Park say they won't leave until the prime minister calls an inquiry.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Protesters at a camp in Memorial Park say they won't leave until the prime minister calls an inquiry. Photo Store

A week after Tina Fontaine's body was pulled from the Red River, and a day after her funeral service, the focus for the community turned Sunday to a national inquiry into the deaths of more 1,100 missing and slain aboriginal women.

Wab Kinew, director of indigenous inclusion at the University of Winnipeg, said Sunday the community is trying to respect the memory of Fontaine and use the national attention on her death to shed a light on the emotional issue.

"First and foremost, we want to respect and honour Tina Fontaine and the tough times her family is going through, and while we're doing that, part of the solution is to turn the focus towards an inquiry," Kinew said Sunday.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper rejected calls for an inquiry, saying what happened to Fontaine was a crime, not a "sociological phenomenon."

'The fact that so many indigenous women go missing or are murdered tells us that there are some broader issues at work'

Kinew disagreed.

"The fact that so many indigenous women go missing or are murdered tells us that there are some broader issues at work that need to be addressed," he said.

An inquiry would be the way to identify those issues, he said.

A protest camp has sprung up at Memorial Park in response to Harper's comments. The protesters said Sunday they will be staying at the campsite until Harper changes his mind and calls for an inquiry.

On Saturday, Fontaine's funeral was held in a Roman Catholic Church at her home community of Sagkeeng First Nation.

The church was standing-room only as about 300 people crammed inside to honour their loved one.

Tina's coffin, decorated with ribbons and flowers in her favourite colour, purple, was carried outside nearly two hours later to a hearse that would bring her body back to Winnipeg to be cremated.

Thelma Favel, Tina's great-aunt, broke down in hysterics as the coffin was driven away. She looked ready to collapse in the parking lot before someone got a chair for her. Her daughter, Samantha Barto, wiped her tears away with a wet cloth.

"I had to apologize to him because he did give me the responsibility of looking after his girls and keeping them safe, and I felt at the church like I failed him," she said.

Favel said she had been asked by Tina's dad, Eugene Fontaine, to take care of his two daughters, Sarah and Tina. Eugene Fontaine was killed three years ago and Favel said she felt as though she's let him down.

After the funeral, Favel visited the cemetery behind the church. There, Eugene's body is buried and Tina's ashes will soon be buried with her dad.

Winnipeg police canvassed parts of West Broadway last week, asking people who would have seen Fontaine between the day she went missing, Aug. 9, and the discovery of her body in the Red River on Aug. 17.

Const. Jason Michalyshen said Sunday police were pleased with the response and information they received from those efforts, but he was not able to say whether there was a need for more canvassing or what police's next steps would be.

oliver.sachgau@freepress.mb.ca jessica.botelho-urbanski@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 25, 2014 B1

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Updated on Monday, August 25, 2014 at 6:31 AM CDT: Adds photo

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