‘No grounds’ to appeal acquittal in Tina Fontaine case: Crown
Community hurting over lack of appeal
The Crown will not appeal the acquittal of a man who was accused of killing 15-yearold Tina Fontaine and dumping her body in a Winnipeg river.
Prosecutors said in a statement Tuesday that only errors in law can be appealed when someone is found not guilty.
“After a critical review ... by the Manitoba Prosecution Service’s appeal unit and the Crown attorneys who prosecuted the case, it has been determined there are no grounds to base a successful appeal.”
A jury found Raymond Cormier not guilty last month of second-degree murder in the Indigenous girl’s death.
Her body, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down by rocks, was pulled from the Red River eight days after she disappeared in 2014.
Grand Chief Sheila North, who represents First Nations communities in northern Manitoba, said the lack of an appeal leaves people hurting.
“This is just another blow to the reality that the justice system has failed Tina Fontaine and her family,” North said.
“It just leaves another gaping hole in the hearts of ... Indigenous people.”
Tina was raised by her greataunt, Thelma Favel, on the Sagkeeng First Nation, 120 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. The teen left to visit her mother in Winnipeg at the end of June 2014 and became an exploited youth.
Favel called Manitoba Child and Family Services with concerns about Fontaine, who ran away repeatedly from a youth shelter and hotels where she was placed. She was last seen leaving a downtown hotel, where she told a private contract worker employed by child welfare that she was going to a shopping centre to meet friends.
The jury heard how Fontaine and her boyfriend met the much-older Cormier that summer. The jury heard Cormier gave the couple a place to stay, as well as drugs.
Witnesses recalled Fontaine and Cormier fighting in the street over a stolen truck and Fontaine accusing him of selling her bike for drugs. She went so far as to report a stolen truck to police.
Witnesses testified Cormier had a duvet cover similar to the one Fontaine was wrapped in.
Cormier was also recorded on tape during a police undercover sting telling a woman that he would make a bet that Fontaine was killed because he had sex with her and then “I found out she was 15 years old.”
There was no DNA evidence linking Cormier to the teen and doctors who were called to testify said they could not definitively say how she died.
The defence argued that the Crown couldn’t prove that Fontaine didn’t die from a drug overdose or naturally in what Cormier’s lawyer called the “underbelly of the city.”
Defence lawyer Anthony Kavanagh said Tuesday the acquittal was the right decision.
“The diverse and extremely representative jury did their job honourably,” Kavanagh wrote in a text message.
“Simply put, evidence — not emotion — is required for a conviction and despite the human desire to find a convenient scapegoat, justice was done here.”
The acquittal sparked rallies of protest and support for Fontaine’s family in cities across the country. It came weeks after another acquittal in a high-profile case in Saskatchewan.
A jury found Gerald Stanley not guilty in the death of Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Indigenous man who was shot in the head after he and some of his friends drove onto Stanley’s farm.
Stanley testified he thought the young people were stealing and he fired warning shots to scare them off. He said the shot that killed Boushie was an accident.
Last week, the Crown in Saskatchewan also decided against an appeal in that case, saying it could find no error in law.
People rally in Calgary last month in honour of Tina Fontaine, who was murdered in August 2014. A jury found a man accused in her death not guilty of second-degree murder.