Winnipeg Police Chief Devon "Mack Daddy" Clunis is a big believer in prayer, and right now he's praying you don't find out that he might have been responsible for why teen runaway Tina Fontaine wasn't picked up by police the day before she was last seen alive.
By now everyone knows that two officers spoke with 15-year-old Tina Fontaine in the wee hours of August 8 after stopping a vehicle in which she was a passenger. They took down her name, we're told, then sent her on her way. But at the time, so the story goes, she had been reported to police as missing, and should have been apprehended.
The police department revealed the contact with Tina last month and announced an internal investigation of the circumstances. Friday, Clunis said the resulting report would be sent to the Crown Attorney's office for review, implying that charges could be laid against the two police officers.
What he failed to say is that Tina Fontaine was probably released by the officers because they were following the policy introduced by none other than Clunis himself on dealing with street prostitutes.
Clunis, you see, wants police to be more social worker than law enforcer. Nine months before Fontaine was killed, Clunis announced the creation of an anti-exploitation unit to build relationships with prostitutes rather than arrest them. Police would, henceforth, harass the johns but not the hookers, who were to be treated with kid gloves. They were, after all, victims in their own right.
The incident where police spoke with Fontaine has all the elements of a roust. Police just happened to be around when Fontaine, who was known to prostitute herself in the area, got into a truck with an unknown male driver in the middle of the night. They stopped the truck and questioned the two occupants. Fontaine was released to go on her way; the driver, who was, allegedly, intoxicated, was taken to the drunk tank.
If he was drunk, why wasn't he charged with drunk driving? Because the officers didn't want to spend time waiting for a breathalyzer test. They wanted to get back on their "beat" asap.
Why wasn't Fontaine held in custody and returned to CFS care? Here's where the story goes off the rails.
Tina Fontaine was a chronic runaway. After running away from her aunt's care in Sagkeeng in November and being returned, she went missing again in July.
RCMP in Powerview reported on July 11 that they had received a missing persons report regarding Tina Fontaine on July 10. She was last seen, they said, on July 1 in Winnipeg. Then, on July 17, they issued a news release saying she had been found safe and sound.
Her great-aunt Thelma Favel, who lives on Sagkeeng, had been unable to reach Tina in Winnipeg for over a week and had therefore reported her missing July 10. Tina's mother Tina Duck later (after Tina's body was discovered) told reporters that she had spent "the better part of the week" with Tina, obviously unbeknownst to Favel.
Follow, so far?
Media reports say she was missing again on July 31, only two weeks later. Thelma Favel says Tina had been gone since about July 26, according to what she learned from a child care worker.
Tina's aunt, Lana Fontaine, told CBC that the girl stayed with her over the August long weekend, Aug. 1 to 5. She added that Tina phoned CFS on Aug. 5 and was taken back into their care.
Neither Winnipeg police nor Powerview RCMP issued a missing persons alert regarding the July 31 disappearance of Tina Fontaine.
According to the best evidence, she was back under CFS care as of Aug.5.
That means that when she was questioned by two Winnipeg police officers, in the early hours of Aug. 8, SHE WAS NOT MISSING.
Again....if what Tina's aunt Lana Fontaine told CBC is the truth, then 15-year-old Tina Fontaine WAS NOT A MISSING PERSON when she came into contact with two policemen on Aug. 8, contrary to everything you have been told or have read since the revelation that police spoke to her and failed to take her into custody 24 hours before her final disappearance!
She was reported missing Aug. 9, police issued a news release Aug. 13 "requesting the publics assistance" in locating her, and her body was found in the Red River Aug. 17.
When the officers spoke with her that night she was NOT a missing person; she was a hooker with a john. The officers were just following the policy laid down by Mack Daddy Clunis when they questioned Tina and let her go.
Mack Daddy Clunis prefers his hookers to stay on the street rather than in jail or on bail.
But why he's letting false information stand without contradiction to let it poison relations between police and the native community is a question the Winnipeg bpolice commission needs to answer -- and fast. Amen.