EDITORIALS, LOCAL NEWS

POLICE SOLVE FONTAINE MURDER – Rabid Dogs, Exploitation & Revolving Doors

WPS Press Conference - WPS Twitter
WPS Deputy Chief Danny Smyth with Homicide Unit Sergeant John O’Donovan – Press Conference  (WPS Twitter Feed)

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.

Tina Fontaine (15) - cbc.ca
Tina Fontaine (15) – cbc.ca

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.

WPS TWITTER FEED
WPS TWITTER FEED

 

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.

RCMP National Operational Review Report - Cover
RCMP National Operational Review Report – Cover

“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 investigation 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.

Factoids

  • 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
RCMP Report - Offender to Victim Relationship
RCMP Report – Offender to Victim Relationship

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 have been 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 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.

Sergeant John O'Donovan (WPS - Twitter)
Sergeant John O’Donovan (WPS – Twitter)

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
  • Hitchhiking
  • 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.

Raymond Joseph Cormier (53) WPS Handout
Raymond Joseph Cormier (53) WPS Handout

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.

#riptinafontaine

13 Comments

  1. James, thanks, that is indeed what I was referring to.

    Dana, it’s unfortunate that you somehow misinterpreted my post. Nowhere in my writing did I state or even suggest that all FN people don’t pay taxes. It was you who decided to make a distinction between tax payers and FN people.

    I, like millions of Canadians, disagree with using our tax dollars to fund a redundant inquiry. It doesn’t serve a purpose.

    Merry Christmas.

  2. Dana…

    Thanks for taking the time to comment and share your thoughts.

    In Mateo’s defence, I think he was making reference to the MMIW Inquiry, which of course, will require millions of tax payer funded dollars that many people, including First Nations tax payers, believe could be better spent on an urgent action plan.

    It doesn’t much matter now anyway as the new Government is making the Inquiry a reality.

    I understand your frustration regarding the widely held misconception FN people do not pay taxes and I appreciate your clarifications for readers who may not have that awareness.

    Have a great holiday season.

  3. Great writing as always, James!

    (In reply to the person “Mateo” who commented about “tax payers”)

    I want you to know that we, First Nations people pay taxes too as long as we are working off our “Reservations” this includes; gas, houses, apartments, cars, and EVERYTHING else that is available off our Reserve. I don’t even know why I am wasting my time explaining this to you, but hopefully next time you see a FN person you will have a different view. By the way it disturbs me to know that some people still think we do not pay taxes. Thank you for your time.

  4. Hi James as usual the point gets lost in rhetoric.

    First thing I need to say is the tired cry that the Police don’t care is a Fantasy perpetuated by a need to find a scapegoat and the Police Service has always been the low hanging fruit. You just can’t do that job with the incredible solvency rates the WPS does without caring, just doesn’t happen. Besides if people want to look there is never ending examples that can prove Police actually care if people just look with their brains. Before people start screaming out examples of the opposite remember that everywhere there are rotten people, doesn’t make the next person bad.

    I also think that there is another aspect to the FN continued blaming of the Police Service and others for all their circumstances. At this time I think they just haven’t been able to come to terms with having to really step back and look at what truly are the issues that need to be addressed. The current FN societal norm includes violence as an integral part of life. Which contributed to Tina Fontaine’s life as her downward spiral was in part due to the violence inflicted previously in her family.

    I don’t have the answers but one thing I do personally think is the inquiry should happen just to get it out of the way. Then people can actually start to find what really needs to be done to reduce violence in society as a whole not just for Indigenous people. If that would happen the money spent on the inquiry would be peanuts.

    Oh one last thing, random violence is impossible to predict or prevent.

  5. Well written piece James.
    The sad and pathetic truth is, these FN groups don’t really want the truth. They want someone to point the finger at, so long as it’s not their own people. They want to expose the mysterious boogieman responsible for all of this, even though we all know he doesn’t exist.
    It seems like an expensive pacifier that once again burdens our police and tax payers.

  6. Tom…

    Very much appreciate your comments.

    Thank you.

  7. Mr Stephen;

    Appreciate your comments.

    Thank you.

  8. Danyelle,

    Thank you for commenting.

  9. Carl,

    Firstly, thank you very much for your comment.

    You make a valid point regarding the sampling size.

    That’s why I provided the caveat I didn’t intend to review the historical data but do choose to rely on the findings provided by the RCMP who did examine decades worth of data.

    It’s clear thestar.com analysts used different methodology when coming to conclusions based on their analysis.

    I used the two year sampling size only to support the larger sampling size results reported by the RCMP.

    As you can see, the small sampling size is entirely consistent with the bigger picture and can be used with a degree of reliability when considering the current trend.

    Winnipeg is relatively “amazing” at solving murders with an almost 90% solvency rate over the last 15 years or so. That’s important because that success translates to revelations regarding significant perpetrator data.

    Thanks again for commenting…

  10. In BC the Missing and Murdered Women Inquiry saw 300+ pages distilled down to a futuristic response as to how the problem, i.e., friction and conflict between law enforcement and FN victim’s families, could be solved. Simply put the writer presented only two words and you have to read on to find that out. How do you bridge the gap between committed and driven investigators and grief stricken families as victims?

    P. I. E. Prevention; Intervention: Enforcement…not necessarily in that order as a problem solving system in Law Enforcement in every case, but the formula is simple. Q: When is the best time to intervene in a system, a course of events, to reduce the risk of a catastrophic outcome outside of the anticipated outcome?
    A: At the earliest opportunity in the system.

    The results of the national police force missing and murdered women’s analyses, qualitative and quantitative, strikes fear in the hearts of some, but not all native leaders. Tough words that debunk the(ir) artificially created myth that perpetrators other than FN culprits, determined to be known to the victims, are responsible for killing FN women and girls. The best defence of course is a good offense so deny, deny, deny!

    The WPS chief investigator in the Fontaine case is a Canadian with his roots in Ireland as the missive lays out. Canadian FN leaders will only be able to deny for so long a bias now that there is a new Govt in power on side with FN issues. Police are on side too mind you. There is a great deal of common ground.

    The two national police force reports put a damper on the niche market, hence the fear of some FN leaders in my humble opinion. There has been an industry created across the country and in many FN communities that the only way out of poverty and desperation is by Govt grants as compared to rolling up the sleeves and getting down to work at solving problems; P.I.E.

    So, the two words not universally received…

    “Be nice”

  11. I am not sure on the strength of this comparison. What I mean is 2 years, with 5 murders in 2014 and 3 in 2015 is not a data set that is statistically compatible to the country as a whole. The sample is just too small to make any significant mathematical conclusions. The star article points out nationally, of 750 murders, 224 remain unsolved, with 44% knowing their killers. If you are going to discuss the strength of their analysis or question the accuracy of their numbers, you have to do their analysis. You cannot take such a small Winnipeg data set and draw any inferences on the rest of country. You could just as easily pick another city, say Saskatoon, notice that 4 of 5 murders remain unsolved, and then make a completely different conclusion from that if you try to extrapolate to the rest of the country. I hope you can see why this exercise is not ever going to yield a good analysis of a larger country wide trend or pattern. Small data sets will never allow any major conclusions to be drawn….I mean it would be nice to say Winnipeg police, are amazing at solving murders. I hope it is the case, but 2 years of data, and 7 murders is not enough data at all.

  12. James:
    An excellent; well written and documented column. I have seen these comments before but far too many people in certain groups will not accept the truth as it does not suit their goal.

  13. well written, as usual. The truth won’t set anyone free here, because political correctness trumps justice… Sad state of affairs in this country 🙁

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