The reaction was heartbreaking, painful and visceral.
Raymond Cormier found not guilty of killing Tina Fontaine.
“How could it be?”
A question so many have asked…
“This is a very difficult and tremendously sad day for our people. This is not the outcome anybody wanted. The systems, everything that was involved in Tina’s life failed her. We’ve all failed her. We as a nation need to do better, all of us.”
For the most part, North’s message was one of despair, anger and regret.
It was also inclusive.
The prevailing message in her remarks highlighted the need for all of “us” to share responsibility for the tragic loss of Tina Fontaine.
Contrast that with messages from other Indigenous leaders…
Perry Bellegarde, National Chief, Assembly of First Nations had a different message.
His message was to blame.
Bellegarde was quick to blame the child welfare system, police and the courts.
It seems a somewhat narrow view if you followed the story of Tina Fontaine’s tragic life.
In reality, there’s plenty of blame to go around.
Plenty of blame for all of “us.”
Indigenous people from across the Country took to social media to express their pain and anger.
One of the central themes to emerge was the anger expressed towards what many perceive is a systemically racist justice system designed to protect non-Indigenous people.
That sentiment unabashedly expressed by @Amanda2Braids on Twitter shortly after the verdict was read…
“All I know is they protected a racist in Sask and let a pedophile go in Winnipeg.”
I noticed her tweet was re-tweeted by the Grand Chief. Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean she agrees with or endorses the sentiment expressed in the message.
But it did make me wonder.
I find the connection people are trying to make between the Fontaine and Boushie cases perplexing.
I’m not alone.
“There will be temptations to draw parallels between this trial and the case of Gerald Stanley, the Saskatchewan farmer who was acquitted earlier this month in the shooting death of 22-year-old Indigenous man Colton Boushie.”
“People should be very careful about drawing those parallels because there aren’t any.”
(Brodbeck went on to highlight the fact the jury in the Cormier case was diverse and reflective of the community. This of course, was not the case in the Stanley trial.)
I, for one, agree with Brodbeck’s assessment.
There is no rational connection between the Fontaine and the Boushie cases.
That view is certainly not unanimous…
“All of us should be ashamed of what happened to her, and to Colten Boushie and to others,” said Grand Chief North outside the courthouse.
I’m not sure what aspects of the cases the Grand Chief connects, other than the obvious, both Fontaine & Boushie were young Indigenous people who died long before they should have.
Both cases are tragic in many ways.
The similarities essentially end there.
The perspectives on the Boushie case seem to be largely divided along racial lines.
It seems the majority of Indigenous people see Boushie as a victim, while the majority of non-Indigenous people see him as the author of his own demise.
These conclusions are easy to draw if you read a newspaper or have any presence on social media.
So where do we go from here?
The case against Raymond Cormier was a difficult one.
The result was not shocking to those of us with experience in these matters.
The case lacked the kind of overt evidence jury members want to rely on.
There was no DNA, no eyewitness, no confession and no smoking gun that made it easy for them to convict.
The case was primarily built on circumstantial evidence.
Police worked the case hard.
It was clearly difficult to investigate.
The use of undercover operations, like the “Mr. Big” sting used in the investigation, tells us the Winnipeg Police Service pulled out all the stops in their efforts to secure justice for Tina.
These operations are extremely labour intensive and expensive to run.
The number of hours put into the case, I’m sure, are astounding.
Police don’t make up the evidence.
They work tremendously hard to discover it, to disclose it and present it in a court of law.
Some cases are easier than others.
They took their shot, and it didn’t work out.
The effort was there.
The jury has spoken.
We must accept their decision and learn from it where we can.
Just don’t expect the police to re-open the case and start looking for a phantom killer.
The police believed Raymond Cormier was Tina’s killer.
If they didn’t believe it, they would never have petitioned Manitoba Justice to lay murder charges against him.
If the Crown Prosecutor’s didn’t believe Cormier was the killer, they would have never authorized the charge.
The reality is, sometimes killers elude justice.
That includes Indigenous killers and non-Indigenous killers.
That knife cuts both ways.
That’s just the way it is.