They came after Nunavummiuq musician Tanya Tagaq, last year’s Polaris Music Prize winner, who complained that while out to lunch in downtown Winnipeg where she was performing with the city’s ballet this fall, “a man started following me calling me a ‘sexy little Indian’ and asking to f–k.” They came the very week an inquest issued its findings in the death of Brian Sinclair, an indigenous 45-year-old who died from an entirely treatable infection after being ignored for 34 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.
The Manitoba capital is deeply divided along ethnic lines.
Winnipeg is arguably becoming Canada’s most racist city.
But indigenous activists believe Tina Fontaine’s death also marked a turning point in race relations; that, for perhaps the first time, the brutalization and murder of a 15-year-old was not dismissed in Winnipeg as an “Aboriginal problem.” Ironically, from the fall’s horrific events, a sense of unity has begun to emerge.
He knew the girls would be better off with Thelma, his aunt, who had helped raise him. 21, 2003, which still hangs in a simple wooden frame in Thelma’s living room in Powerview-Pine Falls, about 100 km northeast of Winnipeg, Eugene signed over temporary custody of Tina, his “little monkey,” and Sarah, whom he’d lovingly nicknamed “chubby.” Tina, a beautiful wisp of a girl, flourished at École Powerview after Thelma pulled her and Sarah from their reserve school. Her boyfriend was deaf; the pair communicated by texting. He became addicted to his pain medication and the alcohol he was using to cope. 31, 2011—just shy of the four months doctors told him he had left to live—Eugene was beaten to death in a dispute over money. In early July, she allowed Tina to visit her mom in Winnipeg for a week: it was her reward for excellent grades that June.
The night before she left, the family gathered to pray and ask for protection, as they do every night.