By Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Friends and family of an Indigenous woman killed during a botched robbery in Winnipeg say they can finally start healing now that the last man convicted in her death has been sent to prison.
“There was justice served,” Travis Beardy, a family friend and member of the Bear Clan Patrol, an Indigenous neighbourhood watch group, said Friday.
Jason Meilleur, 40, was sentenced to 13 years behind bars for his role in the death of Jeanenne Fontaine. In January, a jury had found him guilty of manslaughter.
Fontaine, 29, was shot and her home set on fire in 2017 when three men came to her house to collect on a drug debt her boyfriend owed.
The Crown asked that Meilleur be given 15 years and the defence wanted four. He was credited for about three years already spent in custody.
Judge Gerald Chartier said that while Meilleur didn’t bring the gun or pull the trigger, the three men would not have been at Fontaine’s home if he hadn’t gone to collect the drug debt.
“He was deeply involved in this robbery,” Chartier said in his ruling.
The trio showed up at Fontaine’s house looking for her boyfriend to collect the debt owed to Meilleur’s girlfriend. When the boyfriend wasn’t there, things escalated quickly and Fontaine was shot in the head and the house was set on fire.
Court had heard how Fontaine was struggling with addiction after the death of her cousin, Tina Fontaine, a teenager whose body had been found three years earlier in the Red River and whose death fuelled renewed calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Tina had also spiralled downward after her father, Eugene Fontaine, was beaten to death in 2011. Victim impact statements at the manslaughter trial of two men convicted in the death described how Tina had a happy childhood, but was unable to cope after her father was killed and she drifted away from the people closest to her.
Jeanenne Fontaine’s best friend, Melissa Stevenson, told Meilleur’s sentencing hearing in April that her friend’s life was worth much more than a $45 drug debt.
“I can give you that $45 if you can give me my friend back,” she told Meilleur.
The two other men convicted in Fontaine’s death are already serving their time.
Malcolm Mitchell pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last year and was sentenced to life.
Christopher Brass was found guilty of manslaughter and in January was given 15 years, which are to be served at the same time as life sentences for unrelated first- and second-degree murder convictions. He will not be eligible for parole for 40 years.