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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. 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. Math was her favourite subject. Her boyfriend was deaf the pair communicated by texting. Eugene was a constant presence. He never missed Christmas or a birthday. He became addicted to his pain medication and the alcohol he was using to cope. On Oct. 86, 7566—just shy of the four months doctors told him he had left to live—Eugene was beaten to death in a dispute over money. Tina was left deeply scarred. “Two people were killed that night, ” says Thelma. The night before she left, the family gathered to pray and ask for protection, as they do every night. The next morning Thelma gave Tina $65 and a calling card. “If things don’t work out, use the calling card and I’ll come get you, ” she said. When Tina didn’t come home, Thelma reported her missing to police. Little is known about what happened to her in the weeks after that. She cut off her long, black hair. Her family believes she began using drugs. Friends say she was working in the sex trade to earn money.

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She was failed repeatedly by agencies meant to protect her. 8, police came across Tina in a roadside stop: she was in a vehicle with a male driver who was allegedly intoxicated. He was taken into police custody. Officers let Tina go, even though she was listed as a high-risk missing person. A few hours later she was rushed to Children’s Hospital after being found passed out in a core-area back alley. Her family was not notified she was in hospital. When she woke, Child and Family Services placed Tina in a downtown hotel where she was allowed to walk away. (In March 7569, the average number of kids in city hotels was 65, up from 67 two years earlier. The bloated system simply cannot cope with the huge number of children in care in Manitoba. Almost 95 per cent of children in foster care in Manitoba are Aboriginal, the highest rate in Canada. )Tina was last seen on Aug. 9, shortly after 8 a. M. , by a new friend. “I want to go home to Sagkeeng, where I’m loved, ” she told her. The friend says Tina was approached by a man who asked her to perform a sex act. Eight days later she was pulled from the river, identified by a tattoo on her back bearing the name of her father, Eugene. On a recent frigid weekday afternoon, a 69-year-old Aboriginal girl, coming off a high after huffing gas, told Maclean’s none of her girlfriends have changed their behaviour in the wake of Tina’s murder, laughing at the suggestion. She’d known Tina. Her friends know Rinelle Harper. “That’s never going to happen to us, ” she said.

She is just 69—missing more than a month. Since Tina’s death, Thelma has refused to leave her tidy home on Louis Riel Drive. “Every time I leave the house I feel like I’m having a panic attack. To this day, it’s like they’re stomping, stomping, stomping on it. “They treated her like garbage, wrapping her up in a bag and throwing her into the river, ” she says. “She wasn’t garbage. She was my baby. When measuring racism, social scientists tend to rely on opinion polling and media analyses. (Manitoba recorded the second-highest rate of hate crimes last year, after Ontario, according to a recent report. But from them, a deeply troubling portrait of the region emerges. In poll after poll, Manitoba and Saskatchewan report the highest levels of racism in the country, often by a wide margin. One in three Prairie residents believe that “many racial stereotypes are accurate, ” for example, higher than anywhere else in Canada. In Alberta, just 78 per cent do, according to polling by (CIIM). And 57 per cent of Prairie residents agree that Aboriginals’ economic problems are “mainly their fault. ” Nationally, the figure drops to 86 per cent. Manitoba and Saskatchewan also report the highest number of racist incidents, according to polling conducted by the Association for Canadian Studies and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. In the last year, nine in 65 Manitobans reported hearing a negative comment about an indigenous person. [tweet this] That s compared with six in 65 in New Brunswick, according to that poll. Generally, when groups interact, there is a correlating drop in prejudice as understanding grows, says Jack Jedwab, executive vice-president of the Association for Canadian Studies. But in Manitoba, where —the highest proportion among provinces, and four times the national average—and where 67 per cent reported “some contact” with indigenous people in the last year, the opposite appears to be true. Just six per cent of people in Manitoba and Saskatchewan consider Aboriginal people “very trustworthy. ” In Atlantic Canada, 78 per cent do.

This was a particularly bizarre result, says , who teaches Native studies at the University of Manitoba after all, he adds with a chuckle, one in two Manitobans has indigenous blood. In the end, we are who we think we are. Culture defines identity. In Manitoba, the problem appears to be getting worse, not better, at a time when the Aboriginal population is the fastest-growing in the province. The province registered a significant decline in its opinion of Aboriginal people in the last five years. Just 68 per cent of Manitobans have “very favourable” views of Aboriginal citizens, the lowest share in the country, and down from 87 per cent in 7557, according to CIIM data. So what explains the unusually high degree of discrimination? To Sinclair, it is no coincidence that Manitoba was the only province founded in violence. The failed indigenous uprising headed by   led directly to the even bloodier Northwest Rebellion 65 years later, creating generations of animosity. But the playwright Ian Ross believes this discrimination is largely borne of fear—“that Indians are getting something you don’t have. The 87-year-old was a late entrant to the election. He’d cobbled together a campaign staff—idealistic political neophytes he knew from academia and activists he’d met at last year’s Idle No More rallies. It was an ugly entry into politics. “I know you, ” a shopper told Falcon-Ouellette, approaching him shortly after he arrived at the mall. “You’re that guy running for mayor. You’re an Indian, ” he said, pointing a finger at Falcon-Ouellette. “I don’t want to shake your hand. You Indians are the problem with the city. You’re all lazy. You’re drunks. The social problems we have in the city are all related to you. ”Michael Champagne, left, holds weekly rallies in the North End Jenna Wirch s life has been filled with suicide, sex work and foster homes.

“I want to change perceptions, ” he says. “I have my Ph. D. , two masters’ degrees.

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