Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/3/2015 (2405 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The woman Tina Fontaine called "Momma," who raised Tina as her own, is calling on Winnipeg Police Chief Devon Clunis to release more details about what happened on that summer night last year when two police officers encountered, but didn’t detain, the runaway 15-year-old who would be found slain nine days later.
"I want him to let us know what really, really happened," Thelma Fontaine, Tina's great aunt, said Wednesday in a telephone interview from her home near Sagkeeng First Nation.
Her call for more openness from Chief Clunis came the day after police informed her that Crown prosecutors would not be charging the two police officers criminally.
Prior to releasing that news publicly, police also contacted her to say that one of the officers has been suspended without pay and the other placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of disciplinary hearings.
Minutes after hearing that news, Thelma, who suffers from a seizure disorder, said she had a seizure that lasted almost 20 minutes and resulted in her being rushed to Selkirk General Hospital.
"After I heard what happened with the officers and everything... the stress level just reached its point, I guess."
"Like I said from the beginning," she added, "they should have lost their jobs... because they’re getting paid to protect the people. And they failed to do that with Tina."
It was last September, more than a month after Tina’s body was pulled from the Red River on Aug. 17, that police first reported that two officers, one acting as a field trainer, the other a recruit, stopped a vehicle during the early hours of Aug. 8. Thelma said police told her soon after Tina’s body was found that all four people in the vehicle were intoxicated, the driver was taken into custody, but the others, including Tina, were let go.
During a news conference that disclosed the police contact, Supt. Danny Smyth said he couldn’t discuss details because of the ongoing investigations, but he did say this: "If officers come across a person that's reported missing, I would expect them to take that person into their care. Certainly, as a young person we would be expecting our members to take that person into care or custody."
On Wednesday, Thelma went further.
"In my mind, and in my heart... I feel that Tina would still be here. Because they would have been able to take her. They should have taken her... because Tina was smaller than 15 years old. And she was intoxicated. Like, who in their right mind would let a little girl like that go when they knew she was intoxicated?"
Thelma also said police told her earlier that the officers did a computer check the night they chanced upon her.
"Her name would have came up already that she was a high risk," Thelma said. "And they did run her name."
But after police let her go, Tina had subsequent encounters with people tasked with protecting her health and safety.
Later that day, Tina was found passed out in an Ellice Avenue back lane near the University of Winnipeg, taken to hospital by paramedics and later transferred to a downtown hotel by a Child and Family Services worker.
She was last reported seen the next day, Aug. 9, walking away with a man who agreed to pay her for sex, and was subsequently reported missing in a police news release.
Still, Thelma has questions about the night police found her and let her go.
"I would like to know, if things would have been done different. If things would have been done differently if she was not aboriginal. I’m not just saying white, either. If she just wasn’t aboriginal. If she would have received more help."
Asked if she feels the family and the public have a right to know more about what happened, she said, "Yeah. We do. Everybody does. So this doesn’t happen to another child."
Later Wednesday, Chief Clunis responded to an emailed question asking if he believes the family and the public have a right to know more details about the case.
"The conduct of the officers on the night in question is now the focus of the internal discipline process," he said in an email. "It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."
The police public information office responded similarly to an email requesting more details, but added this:
"As the matter progresses, we may be in a position to provide further information."