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How to pursue justice for Tina Fontaine and all Indigenous youth

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Person holding sign with words "Justice for Tina and Colten". Photo: Memaxmarz/flickr

The person who killed Colten Boushie was not found guilty of any crime and will receive $200K from a GoFundMe campaign. Now we hear that the person who was charged with killing Tina Fontaine has been found not guilty.

According to the CBC, after the verdict was announced, Kevin Hart, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said, "The CFS [Manitoba Child and Family Services] system has definitely failed Tina Fontaine, the Winnipeg Police Service has failed Tina Fontaine. Canadian society failed Tina Fontaine."

The same article by the CBC reported that Jerry Daniels, grand chief of the Southern Chiefs' Organization, said, "every single member of this country and this province is responsible for what's happening here today, and you have to stand up and take part in making reconciliation a reality. It is about all of us."

On Friday’s march in Winnipeg in support of justice for Tina Fontaine, the same calls were echoed as marchers walked for love, peace and change. Marches took place throughout the country from the February 23 to 25. Here is a great post by Brent Patterson from the Council of Canadians with links to all of them.

This toolkit blog is about the efforts being made to address the system which failed Tina and so many others. Reach out to support these efforts and let us know about efforts we have missed at [email protected].

Child and Family Services (CFS): Of the 10,714 children in care in Manitoba, 89 per cent are Indigenous, according CFS. The CFS admits to not meeting the needs of children in care and, in 2017, Manitoba Child and Family Service proposed reforms to the system which has met with criticism from the federal government and First Nations leaders. The Indigenous child welfare agreement between federal and provincial governments remains stalled, as of February 2018. Child advocates like Cindy Blackstock are saying that the federal government is guilty of forging a crisis in Indigenous foster care.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs officially opened the Manitoba First Nations Family Advocate Office (FNFAO) on June 1, 2015. The office opened in ceremony, where the office was gifted the name "Abinoojiyak Bigiiwewag" which translates to "our children are coming home." According to the CBC Manitoba, the Sagkeeng First Nation, Tina Fontaine’s home community, "is taking part in a pilot project called Circle of Care where instead of having children apprehended by CFS, resources are offered to help the family stay together. If protection is needed, members of the extended family are encouraged to take the children in."

There are efforts being made in the community. Keep an eye on what the government is proposing in terms of child and family services reforms and look to groups like FNFAO to see what First Nations communities want.

Justice system: Twenty-seven years ago, after two high-profile murders in Manitoba, Senator Murray Sinclair served as commissioner for an inquiry called the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba. The recommendations made in 1991 included jury selection and representation and policing recommendations, many of which were not adopted. Senator Sinclair is going to Ottawa to ask that the government take a new look at these recommendations as part of their promise to reform the Criminal Code and the justice system.

Meanwhile the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women hearings continue in communities across Canada.  Here is the report from the hearing in the Sagkeeng First Nation.

However, as the unresolved case of Tina Fontaine shows, there is much to be done before Canada is able to deliver justice for Indigenous women and systems which support communites.

Photo: Memaxmarz/flickr

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