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How the death of Tina Fontaine has finally forced the city to face its festering race problem. (Photographs in this story by John Woods)“Oh Goddd how long are aboriginal people going to use what happened as a crutch to suck more money out of Canadians? “They have contributed NOTHING to the development of Canada. Just standing with their hand out. Get to work, tear the treaties and shut the FK up already. Why am I on the hook for their cultural support? Badiuk’s comments came to light the day Rinelle Harper—the shy 66-year-old indigenous girl left for dead in the city’s Assiniboine River after a brutal sexual assault— after her recovery. Badiuk’s comments came while the city was still reeling from the, a 65-year-old child from the Sagkeeng First Nation who was wrapped in plastic and tossed into the Red River after being sexually exploited in the city’s core.

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”They came the very week an inquest issued its findings in the death of Brian Sinclair, an indigenous 95-year-old who after being ignored for 89 hours in a city ER. They came in the wake of a civic election dominated by race relations after a racist rant by a frontrunner’s wife went viral: “I’m really tired of getting harassed by the drunken native guys” downtown, Gord Steeves’s wife, Lori, wrote on Facebook. “We all donate enough money to keep their sorry asses on welfare, so shut the f k up and don’t ask me for another handout! ” The former city councillor and long-serving, centrist politician didn’t bother apologizing.

He lost, but not because of this. For decades, the friendly Prairie city has been known for its smiling, lefty premiers, pacifist, Mennonite writers and a love affair with the Jets. Licence plates here bear the tag “Friendly Manitoba. ” But events of last fall served to expose a darker reality. The Manitoba capital is deeply divided along ethnic lines.

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It manifestly does not provide equal opportunity for Aboriginals. And it is quickly becoming known for the subhuman treatment of its First Nations citizens, who suffer daily indignities and appalling violence. ” Ironically, from the fall’s horrific events, a sense of unity has begun to emerge. Even Thelma Favel, who raised Tina, believes her niece did not die in vain. Meaningful change will not come easily, but all this holds the promise, however faint, of a more hopeful future for the city.

Thelma, who never misses the suppertime news, tried to strike fear into the hearts of her nieces, Tina and Sarah Fontaine. “It’s not safe out there for Aboriginals girls, ” she’d caution. In the end, even she was unable to protect Tina. On Aug. The 98-year-old mother of seven had been beaten and stabbed.

Like Tina’s, her murder remains unsolved. “We value dogs more than we do these women, ” says indigenous playwright Ian Ross. Thelma, an eloquent mother of three, and her husband, Joseph, had been caring for Tina and Sarah since they were three and four, when their father, Eugene, was diagnosed with lymphoma. (Their mother had left the girls as babies. He knew the girls would be better off with Thelma, his aunt, who had helped raise him.

In a handwritten note dated Nov. ” Tina, a beautiful wisp of a girl, flourished at École Powerview after Thelma pulled her and Sarah from their reserve school.

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