US & Canada

Canadian man charged in Red River murder

Tina Fontaine portrait Image copyright Handout

Canadian authorities have charged a man in the death of an indigenous girl whose murder caused a national outcry.

Raymond Cormier, 53, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Tina Fontaine, 15, who was found dead in 2014 in Canada's Red River.

Police say that the pair knew each other and had several encounters.

A BBC investigation in April revealed that dozens of aboriginal women disappear each year, with many later found dead in the river.

Fontaine hailed from the Sagkeeng First Nation, north-east of Winnipeg, but was in the care of the Manitoba child-welfare system when she disappeared, according to the CBC.

Mr Cormier was arrested on Wednesday in Vancouver, but had lived for several years in Winnipeg, where the Red River runs. No arrests had been made previously.

Police say that he remains in custody, and they are now working to transport him back to Winnipeg to face trial.

Image copyright Other
Image caption An official monument for murdered and missing women sits near the river

Analysis - Joanna Jolly, BBC News

The news of an arrest in the Tina Fontaine inquiry marks progress in a case that has been a painful chapter in Winnipeg's history.

The discovery of the schoolgirl's body in the Red River sent shock waves through the city. Hundreds took to the streets and social media to demand better protection for Aboriginal women.

Dozens of Aboriginal women and girls have been murdered or gone missing in the province of Manitoba in the last three decades.

For years, campaigners say the violence was seen as an Aboriginal on Aboriginal problem, often dismissed by the authorities and not properly investigated.

But Tina's murder brought the issue into the spotlight.

Now a suspect has been arrested in her case, the pressure will move onto the specially set-up police task force, known as Project Devote, which is investigating more than 20 cold cases of murder and disappearance.

Many other Aboriginal families in Winnipeg are still waiting for answers.

Read Jo's full report on the missing women (April 2015)

Police are commending the public for their help in the case.

"People came to us," Sergeant John O'Donovan said. "They never stopped coming to us with information."

Fontaine was reported missing on 9 August 2014, and her body was found in the river eight days later. Her death was determined to be a homicide.

On Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women in an appeal to First Nations chiefs.

The public inquiry would be a "top priority" of his newly-elected Liberal government, he said. Mr Trudeau promised increased funding for programming and a review of laws on indigenous peoples.

Special Report: On the trail of the murdered and missing

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