Calling MMIW Inquiry Just the Start

Calling MMIW Inquiry Just the Start

By Roger Currie

Danny Smyth
Deputy Chief Danny Smyth and Homicide Sergeant John O’Donovan, left, enter a press conference to announce the arrest of Raymond Joseph Cormier, 53, a suspect in the murder of Tina Fontaine, in Winnipeg, on Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. Cormier was arrested in Vancouver. Homicide victim, 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, was pulled from the Red River August 17, 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)
Tina Fontaine
Tina Fontaine (WPS / HANDOUT)

It was two years ago this month that Winnipeg and the rest of Canada endured a horrible tragedy when the body of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine was pulled from the Red River. She had been wrapped in plastic, and tossed into the muddy water like a piece of garbage. Eighteen months later, a 53-year-old drifter from New Brunswick with a lengthy criminal record, was arrested in B.C. and charged with Tina’s murder.

More than any of the hundreds of similar cases over the past decades, it was Tina’s story that drove the push for a public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. When he was Prime Minister, Stephen Harper refused to appoint such an inquiry, saying there was nothing about such murders that put them in a different class than any other similar crimes in Canada.

Justin Trudeau promised that there would be an inquiry, and 10 months after his Liberals defeated Harper, the wheels are now in motion. Four women and one man have been appointed to serve as commissioners. They’ve been given two years and $54 million to come up with recommendations that will hopefully help to end or at least reduce the cycle of violence.

MMIW Roundtable
A woman wipes away a tear around a sharing circle at the 2nd National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Winnipeg on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. The meeting brought together federal ministers, national Indigenous leaders, provincial and territorial premiers and ministers and families from across the country to discuss both the national inquiry, as well as actions governments can take now to begin to address the issue. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

It’s a huge task and many in both the white and aboriginal communities seriously question if the process will make a difference. The relatives of the women and girls who have been lost look upon on the inquiry as a memorial to their loved ones, but I sincerely hope they don’t see it as a golden path to a better future. Just ask Murray Sinclair as he rests in his comfortable chair in the Senate. He chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and before that he was co-chair of Manitoba’s Aboriginal Justice Inquiry.

Tina Fontaine was one of the 10,000 Manitoba children who were in the care of the province when she was murdered two years ago. Until something can be done to change those numbers, this latest inquiry may well be doomed to be just another field of broken dreams.

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Roger Currie is a writer, storyteller, voice for hire, observer of life on the Canadian prairies, and can be heard on CJNU 93.7FM in Winnipeg.