The 43-year-old mother of seven had been beaten and stabbed. “We value dogs more than we do these women,” says indigenous playwright Ian Ross.
Thelma, an eloquent mother of three, and her husband, Joseph, had been caring for Tina and Sarah since they were three and four, when their father, Eugene, was diagnosed with lymphoma.
” The former city councillor and long-serving, centrist politician didn’t bother apologizing. For decades, the friendly Prairie city has been known for its smiling, lefty premiers, pacifist, Mennonite writers and a love affair with the Jets.
Licence plates here bear the tag “Friendly Manitoba.” But events of last fall served to expose a darker reality.
Little is known about what happened to her in the weeks after that. She was failed repeatedly by agencies meant to protect her. 8, police came across Tina in a roadside stop: she was in a vehicle with a male driver who was allegedly intoxicated. Officers let Tina go, even though she was listed as a high-risk missing person.
A few hours later she was rushed to Children’s Hospital after being found passed out in a core-area back alley. When she woke, Child and Family Services placed Tina in a downtown hotel where she was allowed to walk away.
Meaningful change will not come easily, but all this holds the promise, however faint, of a more hopeful future for the city.
It manifestly does not provide equal opportunity for Aboriginals.“If things don’t work out, use the calling card and I’ll come get you,” she said.When Tina didn’t come home, Thelma reported her missing to police. Friends say she was working in the sex trade to earn money.But indigenous activists believe Tina Fontaine’s death also marked a turning point in race relations; that, for perhaps the first time, the brutalization and murder of a 15-year-old was not dismissed in Winnipeg as an “Aboriginal problem.” Ironically, from the fall’s horrific events, a sense of unity has begun to emerge.Even Thelma Favel, who raised Tina, believes her niece did not die in vain.