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This article was published 27/3/2018 (1142 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A planned expansion of a safe haven for Winnipeg youth is moving ahead in memory of Tina Fontaine.
Federal Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott is set to announce federal funding today to support Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre. The Selkirk Avenue facility runs an Indigenous youth shelter, where 15-year-old Tina spent some time before she went missing and was later found dead in the Red River nearly four years ago.
Tina’s great-aunt, Thelma Favel, who raised Tina in Sagkeeng First Nation, told the Free Press Ndinawe staff approached her last month (after the conclusion of the court case for Tina’s accused killer) with the idea of dedicating a project in Tina’s honour. Favel said she fully supports a plan to devote more resources toward a 24-7 shelter for girls and boys who find themselves on Winnipeg streets with nowhere to go.
"I told them what my dream was: to help other children," Favel said.
"It makes me feel so warm inside, just to know that place will help other children and no other family has to go through what we went through when we found Tina — there’s a place for them to go to feel safe."
Details of the federal funding and Ndinawe expansion project are expected to be released during Philpott’s stop in Winnipeg, prior to the minister attending a child-welfare summit in the city.
Tina spent some time at Ndinawe’s temporary youth shelter during the summer of 2014. She’d arrived in Winnipeg for a weeklong visit with her mother, Valentina Duck, but decided not to return home to Sagkeeng at the end of that week.
Favel asked Child and Family Services for help, and Tina was brought into CFS care. Tina showed up at Ndinawe on July 23, 2014, and filled out an intake form for a bed there. Staff at the shelter reported her missing twice less than a month before her death.
The first time, Tina was reported missing after she missed curfew, but the report was cancelled hours later when she returned to the shelter on the afternoon of July 27. Ndinawe staff reported her missing a second time on July 30, and never saw her again. She was last seen leaving her CFS placement at a downtown hotel on Aug. 8. Her body was pulled from the Red River on Aug. 17.
On Aug. 1, 2017, more than two weeks before she was found dead, Tina’s bed at Ndinawe was given to another youth, and her social worker was informed she had been discharged from the shelter because she didn’t return.
Favel said she believed Tina would be "so happy" knowing other youth would have a safe space in her name.
"I think she’d be happy, because she always wanted to help. That was her dream job, was to become a CFS worker. This would just make her so happy, knowing that other kids will be safe," Favel said.
"Even if it’s just one child to be saved, it’ll be all worth it."
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.