AMC renews calls for an independent inquiry into the death of Tina Fontaine

March 12, 2019

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba

AMC Communications

TREATY ONE TERRITORY, MB. _ The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs renews its call for an independent inquiry into the death of Tina Fontaine.

Today the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth (MACY) released a report entitled A Place Where it Feels Like Home: The Story of Tina Fontaine. In response to the death of Tina Fontaine, MACY identifies five recommendations on how to improve provincial services for children and youth. It made recommendations for the Government of Manitoba, and specifically for Manitoba Education; Healthy Seniors and Active Living; Justice; and Families.

War Lake First Nation Chief Betsy Kennedy, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs’ Acting Grand Chief, said: “The tragic death of Tina has been a rallying cry for everyone in Manitoba to deal with the problems First Nations girls and boys face in their lives, and the many services and jurisdictions that deal with First Nations children and youth. An investigation on how to best respond to this sad story was an opportunity for the Manitoba government to work with First Nations on an inter-jurisdictional basis. That did not happen.”

Prior to releasing the report, the AMC was invited to a meeting to discuss the report. Contrary to the report’s statements, the AMC did not discuss the findings and recommendations.

“We are appreciative that the MACY invited the AMC to discuss the report. Unfortunately, while we did meet, we did not fully work together in a good and respectful way. Manitoba First Nations and the provincial government both recognize the larger problem, and understand that Tina Fontaine is not an anomaly. The investigation, report and recommendations are a start, but the content remains firmly based in a colonial approach as it pushes First Nations aside and advances an investigation from outside provincial jurisdiction, and does not attempt to reconcile working with First Nations and respect our jurisdiction,” said Acting Grand Chief Kennedy.

The MACY report describes how Tina Fontaine’s life unfolded from birth to death. Simultaneously, it shares the underlying issue of how failed legislation and policies affected her life before birth. The effects of colonization, residential school and the Sixties Scoop have continued a cycle that many grandparents and parents continue to struggle with that spills through generations.

In response to Tina’s untimely death, the AMC leadership created the First Nations Family Advocate Office.  At the time, we had no commitment or support from the provincial or federal governments to help families who are caught up in the provincial child and family system. The First Nations Family Advocate Office receives its mandate from the Chiefs-in-Assembly, and is accountable to Manitoba First Nations leadership. The Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth is not accountable to First Nations, does not involve First Nations, and does not report to them. It only reports to the Manitoba Legislature.

AMC Acting Grand Chief Kennedy continued: “It is important to acknowledge the jurisdictional concern of how recommendations can be implemented. A mechanism needs to be in place to ensure the provincial government is working with First Nations collaboratively and inter-jurisdictionally to address the services gaps that should be available to all Manitobans.”

Relevant work of the AMC includes overhaul of the provincial CFS system by exerting First Nations jurisdiction though the initiative Bringing Our Children Home, and also the AMC report that proposed a Manitoba First Nations-led inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girl Families First – a made in Manitoba approach to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).

In March 2018, the AMC Chiefs-in-Assembly called for an independent inquiry into the death of Tina Fontaine that would be established under the authority of First Nations jurisdiction, and examine the actions and inactions of the Winnipeg Police Service, CFS and hospital staff that were involved with Tina Fontaine prior to her death; be funded by the province and/or federal government; consist of First Nation commissioners; and report to the AMC Chiefs-In-Assembly, Province of Manitoba and the Government of Canada.

The Manitoba government has said it will not call a public inquiry into Tina Fontaine’s death because the MACY was already conducting its investigation.

Acting Grand Chief Kennedy concluded, “The recommendations, and the public tracking and monitoring of the compliance of them by the MACY, are a start to finally deal with the death of Tina Fontaine.  However, it does not respond to all the questions and concerns. Manitoba not only must have the political will to only implement these recommendations, but also implement what Manitoba First Nations have identified in Families First, as well as fully respond to the report of the National Inquiry into MMIWG.  Finally, we call on the Province of Manitoba and the Government of Canada to work together with the AMC on an independent inquiry into the death of Tina Fontaine.”