Winnipeg police saw Tina Fontaine but let her go

An internal investigation is underway, police say

WINNIPEG — Winnipeg police confirmed Thursday that two officers came across Tina Fontaine the day before she disappeared and one week before her body was pulled from the Red River.

Fontaine, 15, was in a vehicle police pulled over on Aug. 8, more than a week after she was reported missing, but she was not taken into custody.

“If officers come across a person that’s reported missing, I would expect them to take that person into their care,” Supt. Danny Smyth said Friday.

An internal investigation is underway. It not clear whether the officers knew Fontaine’s identity at the time, or whether they were aware she had been reported missing.

Smyth spoke at a news conference set up to respond to a report from CTV that said Fontaine was a passenger in a vehicle along with a man who was arrested on suspicion of being impaired.

“The two officers have been reassigned to non-operational duties,” police chief Devon Clunis said.

Fontaine’s body had been placed in a bag and dumped in the river. It was discovered Aug. 17.

Police said their investigation into the teen’s death was still very much active, although no arrests had been made.

The case has prompted renewed calls on the federal government for a national inquiry into the high number of aboriginal women who have been killed or disappeared.

Fontaine had spent much of her life with her great-aunt, Thelma Favel, on the Sagkeeng First Nation, 75 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. She had a history of running away and went to Winnipeg about a month before her death to visit her biological mother.

Favel had asked a child welfare agency for help with Fontaine and said Thursday social workers failed her. The girl was supposed to be in a group home or foster home, but had run away and had not been seen for more than a week.

Favel said social workers have told her that on the night of Aug. 8 _ which would be a few hours after police came across Fontaine _ Fontaine had passed out in an alley downtown and paramedics took her to a nearby hospital.

“They kept her there for about three or four hours until she sobered up a little bit and then (social workers) picked her up from the hospital.”

That appears to have been the last time she was seen alive.

Child and Family Services has launched an internal investigation into the case as well, but Favel is not expecting anything will change.

“It’s just another aboriginal who fell through the cracks, is the way I see it.”

Favel said Thursday she has received a bill in the mail for Fontaine’s ambulance ride to the hospital.

“I just received a $500 ambulance bill a couple of days ago.”