WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canadian police have arrested a man in the murder of a 15-year-old girl, whose death last year focused attention on the country’s problem of indigenous women disappearing or being killed.
Tina Fontaine’s body was found in a bag in Winnipeg, Manitoba’s Red River in August 2014. Her death also focused attention on Manitoba’s child welfare system, as the thin Aboriginal girl had run away from government care in a hotel.
More than a year after her death, Winnipeg Police Service said on Friday that it had charged Raymond Joseph Cormier, a 53-year-old unemployed man, with second-degree murder. He was arrested Wednesday in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Fontaine, lonely and confused over the earlier death of her father, ran away from her Winnipeg hotel and was “highly vulnerable and exploited while on the run,” said Winnipeg Deputy Chief Danny Smyth. Police would not elaborate on how she was exploited.
“This was particularly horrific,” said Sgt. John O’Donovan, of the discovery of Fontaine’s body. “When you see the pictures of this little kid before she died, (it’s clear) she’s just a little kid.”
Manitoba’s government proposed legislation this month that would involve indigenous communities more closely in care of children who need protection. It said last month that it no longer uses hotels to house children in care.
Aboriginals, who make up 5.0 percent of Canada’s population, have higher levels of poverty and a lower life expectancy than other Canadians, and are more often victims of violent crime, addiction and incarceration.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in 2014 that 1,017 Aboriginal women had been murdered between 1980 and 2012. Another 108 are missing under suspicious circumstances, with some cases dating back to 1952.
“We are just as shocked and outraged by the violence we observe directed against women in general and the violence we observe directed at indigenous women and children in particular,” Smyth said.
Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week his government would set up an inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women.
Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba