Police have arrested and charged a no-account habitual-criminal in connection with the high-profile killing of Winnipeg teenager Tina Fontaine (15).
Fontaine’s body was pulled from the murky waters of the Red River on August 17, 2014.
The case featured many distractions that included allegations of both police and Child & Family Services incompetence.
Police report Raymond Joseph Cormier (53) was arrested on December 9, 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia by members of the Winnipeg Police Service’s Homicide Unit.
He now stands charged with 2nd degree murder and remains in custody.
Police advised Cormier was an acquaintance of Fontaine and suggested the accused killer had “exploited” her on multiple occasions.
Police confirmed Cormier is no stranger to the Criminal Justice System in a tweet posted on the official WPS Twitter account.
The extent of Cormier’s record was highlighted by WFP Crime Reporter Mike McIntyre who indicated the “serial drifter” has accrued some ninety-four (94) criminal convictions across Canada.
(Winnipeg serial killer Sean Lamb had one-hundred-nine (109) criminal convictions on his record.)
Cormier’s record includes convictions for robberies, assaults, weapons offences, drug offences, numerous property crimes along with multiple breaches of various court orders.
The role Canadian justice (small “j”) played in this tragic story is but one piece of the complex puzzle.
Violence Against Indigenous Women
The ongoing controversy regarding #mmiw in Canada only became more confusing recently after thestar.com published an article casting significant doubt on statistics published in two major RCMP reports.
I’m confident the reports were released with good intentions.
(To answer requests for information from the media and public, to raise awareness and to increase accountability and transparency.)
The online news source assigned five (5) journalists and two (2) librarians to conduct extensive research and analysis into public lists of murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada.
Their findings called solvency rates, various statistics, relationships and definitions used in the reports into question.
The main thrust of the story appears to be a challenge to the belief the majority of Indigenous women are killed by someone who they had some form of relationship with, as the RCMP reports suggested.
“That is not true,” states the author (s).
The article also criticizes police for their, “lack of co-operation” and for failing to answer, “a long list of questions posed by the Star.”
One of those questions was, “How many members of Project Devote are Indigenous.”
(Project Devote is a joint RCMP and WPS Taskforce assigned to investigate cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Manitoba.)
You might be perplexed regarding the relevance of the question…
Hold that thought.
Police Secrecy Masks the Scope of the Problem
“Police secrecy masks the scope of the problem,” says Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.
“What is the scope of the problem, there is really no definitive picture,” he laments.
At times I’ve questioned if the Indigenous leadership really want to know the answer to the question. After all, calls for a National Inquiry are built on the premise the #mmiw crisis is some sort of phenomena far to complex for any of us to comprehend.
I respectfully suggest no such phenomena exists.
While I’m not inclined to fact check decades of historical data concerning hundreds of cases of missing or murdered Indigenous women, I am willing to conduct analysis on recent events to provide insight into current trends.
2014 – The Year in Review
Tina Fontaine was killed sometime during the month of August in 2014, therefore the year 2014 is clearly relevant.
In 2014, the City of Winnipeg recorded a total of twenty-five (25) homicides.
All but one of the killings have been solved which translates to an industry leading solvency rate of 96%.
Of the twenty-five (25) homicides, a total of nine (9) of the victims were women.
- 7 of the 9 female victims were Indigenous
- 6 of the 7 cases involving Indigenous women were solved
- 4 Indigenous men, 1 Indigenous woman and 1 non-Indigenous man (Cormier) stands charged in the killings
- 1 case (Angela Poorman) remains unsolved
- In the solved cases, 83% of the perpetrators have been identified as having Indigenous heritage
- In the solved cases, 100% of the killers have been identified as someone known to the victim
The original RCMP report indicated ninety-two (92%) percent of Aboriginal or Indigenous homicide victims knew their killer (s). The killers were identified as spousal, other family, other intimate or acquaintance.
The RCMP follow-up report indicated, “Current and former spouses and family members made up the majority of the relationships between victims and offenders.”
My analysis of the 2014 data is entirely consistent with the findings published in the RCMP report.
The trend in the City of Winnipeg continues…
In 2015, three (3) Indigenous women were killed in violent attacks;
- On May 19, 2015, Kathleen Leary (66) was killed by a young offender (male) who was known to her. The youth has been charged with 2nd degree murder.
- On October 8, 2015, Selena Keeper (20) was brutally beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend Ray William Everett (20) who was subsequently charged with 2nd degree murder.
- On November 26, 2015, Candace Monias (28) was brutally beaten to death by her “domestic partner” Charley Harper (29) who was subsequently charged with 2nd degree murder.
(The perpetrators identified in these killings are all Indigenous men.)
The Need to Cast Aspersions on the RCMP Data
I’m not exactly sure where the need to cast aspersions on the RCMP data originates.
The RCMP are well-known for their unparalleled ability to collect and analyze data. I’d be shocked and disappointed if their reports contain the fatal flaws suggested by thestar.com journos.
That brings me back to the question.
“How many members of Project Devote are Indigenous?”
It seems the question may be designed to inflame or undermine the relationship between Law Enforcement and members of the Indigenous community.
Maybe the question is designed to feed the myth Police investigate crimes perpetrated against Indigenous people with less enthusiasm than their non-Indigenous counterparts?
Is that what you believe?
Is that what you want Indigenous people to believe?
If that were true would we be celebrating the resolution of the heinous crime that claimed Tina Fontaine’s life?
I don’t know anything about the ethnicity of the Project Devote members but I do know the ethnicity of WPS Homicide Sergeant John O’Donovan.
O’Donovan is the Sergeant who ran the Fontaine case.
He’s the guy that sacrificed significant sleep, skipped meals, missed family events and weekends off, shared the pain of a grieving family and dedicated every waking thought to catching a young Indigenous girl’s killer.
For the record, he’s Irish.
But that doesn’t really fit the script, does it?
A white Homicide Unit Supervisor running a murder case with predominantly white homicide investigators who care, who sacrifice, who are committed, professional and relentless in their pursuit of “justice” for a young Indigenous murder victim.
No story there.
The Inconvenient Truth
It seems it was long ago the Project Devote Team held a presser to release a detailed list of risk factors associated to the victimization of Indigenous women and girls in the context of the #mmiw crisis.
Those factors included;
- High Risk Lifestyle
- Substance Abuse / Addiction
- Involvement in the Sex Trade
- Transient Lifestyle
- Mental Health Issues
(The RCMP reports expanded on these causation factors.)
Its clear, Tina Fontaine was a vulnerable teen who was exposed to a number of these risk factors.
That’s not victim blaming, it’s fact.
I have a tremendous amount of sympathy and compassion for Tina Fontaine, her family, her friends and all those who loved and cared for her.
The Path Forward
The first RCMP report indicated, “Offenders accused of killing Aboriginal females were more likely to have a criminal record.” (71% vs 45%) Convictions for violent crime was identified as a precursor for perpetrators.
The reality is troubling.
The reality is, there is nothing unique about habitual criminals the likes of Raymond Cormier or Shawn Lamb. No account, underachievers who amass a staggering number of criminal convictions and live their lives on the “instalment plan.”
The troubling part is, those of us with experience in Law Enforcement know that’s not likely to change. Every major City in our Country has literally dozens of these type of men roaming our streets, breaking our laws and looking for their next victim (s).
Very few of them will commit the ultimate crime.
Predicting which one might is impossible, therefore, an incarcetory solution will never address the problem.
The path forward is not as complex as proponents for a #mmiw would have you think.
To solve any problem we must have data to analyze and interpret.
Contrary to what thestar.com and many Indigenous leaders would have you believe, the data to solve the #mmiw crisis now exists.
We know the risk factors, we know the perpetrators and we know the trend.
To start with, we have to stop being distracted by race-baiters who do nothing to advance the conversation.
The race of Tina Fontaine’s killer has as much relevance in her death as the race of Project Devote investigators have in the star.com article.
“It is not the ethnicity of the offender that is relevant, but rather the relationship between the victim and offender that guides our focus with respect to prevention,” says RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson.
Truth, Action, Prevention.