The Crown will not appeal the acquittal of a man who was accused of killing 15-year-old Tina Fontaine and dumping her body in a Winnipeg river.
Prosecutors said in a statement Tuesday that only errors in law can be appealed when someone is found not guilty.
“After a critical review … by the Manitoba Prosecution Service’s appeal unit and the Crown attorneys who prosecuted the case, it has been determined there are no grounds to base a successful appeal,” said the statement.
A jury found Raymond Cormier not guilty last month of second-degree murder in the Indigenous girl’s death.
Her body, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down by rocks, was pulled from Winnipeg’s Red River eight days after she disappeared in August 2014.
The Crown said it had advised Tina’s family of the decision.
Grand Chief Sheila North, who represents First Nations communities in northern Manitoba, said the lack of an appeal leaves people hurting.
“This is just another blow to the reality that the justice system has failed Tina Fontaine and her family,” North said.
“It just leaves another gaping hole in the hearts of … Indigenous people.”
James Favel, who established the volunteer Bear Clan Patrol to keep an eye on inner-city streets following Tina’s death, was not surprised by the decision.
“We don’t even really have the expectation of justice anymore,” he said. “When these verdicts come down the way they do, it’s really no surprise to anyone, and that’s the problem.”
Tina was raised by her great-aunt, Thelma Favel, from the Sagkeeng First Nation, 120 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. The teen left to visit her mother in Winnipeg at the end of June 2014 and became an exploited youth.
Favel called Child and Family Services with concerns about Tina, who ran away repeatedly from a youth shelter and hotels where she was placed.
She was last seen leaving a downtown hotel, where she told a private contract worker employed by child welfare that she was going to a shopping centre to meet friends.
Over three weeks of testimony, the jury heard how Tina and her boyfriend met the much-older Cormier in the summer of 2014. The jury heard Cormier gave the couple a place to stay, gave Tina drugs and had sex with her.
Witnesses remember Tina and Cormier fighting in the street over a stolen truck and Tina accusing him of selling her bike for drugs. Tina went so far as to report a stolen truck to police.
Witnesses testified that Cormier had a duvet cover similar to the one Tina was wrapped in. Cormier was also recorded on tape during an undercover sting telling a woman that he would make a bet that Tina was killed because he had had sex with her and then “I found out she was 15 years old.”
There was no DNA evidence linking Cormier to the teen and doctors who were called to testify said they could not definitively say how she died.
The defence argued that without DNA evidence and no cause of death, the Crown couldn’t prove that Tina didn’t die from a drug overdose or naturally in what Cormier’s lawyer called the “underbelly of the city.”
The acquittal sparked rallies of protest and support for Tina’s family in cities across the country.
It came just weeks after another acquittal in a high-profile case in Saskatchewan. A jury found Gerald Stanley not guilty in the death of Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Indigenous man who was shot in the head after he and some of his friend drove onto Stanley’s farm.
Stanley testified he thought the young people were stealing and he fired warning shots to scare them off. He said the shot that killed Boushie was an accident.
Last week, the Crown in Saskatchewan also decided against an appeal, saying it could find no error in law.
The Canadian Press