Toronto communities mourn acquittal of Raymond Cormier at Fort York and Lake Ontario
A protest over the not-guilty verdict for Raymond Cormier accused of killing Tina Fontaine will happen this Saturday near Toronto City Hall.
On March 2, 2018 at Nathan Phillips Square Decolonize Canadian Schools will host a protest.Over one thousand people are expected to attend according to Facebook RSVP numbers.
The last protest had over one hundred show up to mark the acquittal of Cormier as a sign of injustice at the hands of Canada’s legal and child welfare systems.
A walk was led by Indigenous women, youth and two-spirited persons to pray for Fontaine, hope for collective and individual healing as well as to make sense out of the despair. Canada has a long history of using litigious means to silence and oppress Aboriginal people.
The tone of the event felt more like a funeral procession than an activist march. The gathering was as an act of peaceful resistance against the acquittal of Cormier in relation to the murder of fifteen year old Tina Fontaine. Fontaine was found wrapped in a duvet weighed down by rocks in Red River, Winnpeg back on August 17, 2017. The forensic evidence was erased.
The Truth and Reconcilliation Commission of Canada called for the “federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal organizations, to appoint a public inquiry into the causes of, and remedies for, the disproportionate victimization of Aboriginal women and girls” back in 2015. Chief Commissioner Marion Buller said the federal government bureaucracy was smothering the process during the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s inquiry in an address the Canadian senate last September.
According to RCMP reports over one thousand women and girls identified as Indigenous were murdered between 1980 and 2012. This rate puts Aboriginal women at a 4.5 times greater risk of being murdered than the non-Aboriginal population in Canada. The report did not factor in suspicious – only confirmed murders. Manitoba, where Fontaine’s murder occurred, according to RCMP 49 per cent of female homicides are comprised of Aboriginal women.
Delilah Saunders who attended the gathering also survived the murder of her sister Loretta Saunders. Before Loretta died she was writing a thesis paper about missing and murdered Indigenous women Delilah told the crowd. She said “the justice system does not work for us. It works against us.”
Krysta Williams who helped organize did so as a collective of individuals ranging from concerned community members, artists, “aunties and young people who were watching the verdict and needed a space for immediate response.”
Attendants gathered under an overpass covered up in blankets near Fort York. Shielded from the rain the crowd of over one hundred formed a circle. The blankets represented soothing, honour and a poignant reminder of how Fontaine was found.
Toronto Police arrived to question what was going on and remained present for the duration of the gathering. They closed off intersections for a walk to the lake so prayers for Fontaine could be offered. They were not involved in planning.
Quiet tears streamed down the cheeks of some faces during a drum circle. Grandmother Pauline Shirt was there as an Elder offering prayers and ceremony. Following a procession from the beneath a Fort York overpass to Coronation Park with the misty Lake Ontario over the horizon. She asked everyone to hold tobacco in their left hand, the hand closest to their heart, to pray, and let the leaves go into the lake. Strawberries and blueberries were offered as part of the tradition too. Toronto Police closed off the intersections along the walk from drivers along Strachan Avenue.
Black Lives Matter Toronto provided a sign language interpreter, food, and all-around support to Indigenous organizers and the wider Aboriginal community and their allies who arrived. Members of KAIROS Canadian Ecumenical Justice initiatives were in attendance too.
“It’s not about ourselves and it’s not about ego. It’s to honour the life of Tina Fontaine. It’s to honour our community and being able to hold space for each other for our families for our own grief and mourning process,” said Ashley Bomberry who also attended.