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Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Winnipeg Police issue false news release on the Tina Fontaine case

Winnipeg Police issued a false news release Wednesday that was designed to mislead the public while simultaneously making two serving officers into scapegoats for Chief Devon Clunis.

Here's how most relevant portion of the news release read:

Winnipeg Police Professional Standards Investigation
The Winnipeg Police Homicide Unit has been actively investigating the murder of Tina Fontaine since August, 2014. This investigation is on-going. Numerous people have been interviewed, and a number of forensic tests have been conducted.
During the course of the investigation, Homicide investigators discovered that Tina Fontaine was reported as a missing person on July 31st, 2014. Investigators also discovered that two members of the Winnipeg Police Service had contact with Ms. Fontaine on August 8th, 2014, approximately 24 hours before her disappearance.
Chief Clunis was informed of these events on September 3rd, 2014, and immediately directed the Professional Standards Unit to commence an investigation. The officers were removed from active duty in October and placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of that investigation.

The release implies that the two police officers had "contact" with Tina Fontaine on Aug. 8 while she was "reported as a missing person." That's false and the police service knows it.

While Tina Fontaine was, indeed, reported as a missing person on July 31st, 2014, she was NOT MISSING when the paths of her and the police crossed. 

She had been located Aug. 5th and had been in CFS care from that date until she was again apparently reported missing 18 hours AFTER the "contact" with the unnamed officers.

We reported these facts exclusively five months ago.

That report is being reposted today (with updates). But in the meantime we unearthed further confirmation from contemporary news reports that Tina Fontaine was NOT MISSING when the police spoke with her in the early morning of Aug. 8, 2014.

*  The strongest evidence comes from an acquaintance of Tina Fontaine who was interviewed by CBC.

She was only identified by the pseudonym Katrina. 

Katrina later contacted The Black Rod and helped fill in some of the blanks regarding Tina's movements before she disappeared.  In her CBC interview she said:

"We were just hanging out and then some guy flagged her from a truck," Katrina recalled. "I thought she knew him or something, I don't know. But she went to go get in.
"The cops happened to be driving by, so I pointed right away," she added. "Then they went and chased the truck down and they told her to, like, walk away."

Katrina said she lost track of Fontaine for some time after the police incident but ran into her again at around 8 p.m. on Aug. 8.
"She just told me that, like, she ended up in the hospital, she was supposed to be at the Best Western placement, and she said that they were going to report her missing if she wasn't back at a certain time," Katrina said.
"I looked at my phone. I was like, 'Oh shit, you're going to be missing in, like, two hours.'"

*  Tina Fontaine said she "they were going to report her missing" if she missed curfew.

*  And curfew, according to Katrina, was "in...two hours", 10 p.m.

* This conversation took place 16 hours AFTER 2 police officers spoke with Tina. 

* Further confirmation comes from none other than Thelma Favel, Tina's great-aunt, in this story from CBC:

"Paramedics had picked the teen up from an alley, where she was passed out. Fontaine was transported to the Winnipeg Children's Hospital and then released to a CFS worker.
The worker didn't know where to take her, Favel said.
The worker stopped at an office and went in to get the address and left Fontaine in the car. She was later taken to a hotel and went missing from there."

The known sequence of events is: 

1) Police saw her about 3 a.m. Aug. 8th,
2) Then she met up with friends and got drunk,
3) She was found in an alley and she was taken to hospital where she sobered up,
4) Tina was turned over to CFS and she was lodged in a hotel. 
5) She "went missing from there."

The police spokesmen have never acknowledged these facts. 
Instead, they falsely imply that the two officers did something wrong by not apprehending Tina Fontaine when she was "reported missing."

Why are they vilifying these two police officers? 

Especially since, by all appearances, they were only following the directives of the chief.

Throughout  2014 the police were very vocal about their new policy on handling public prostitution.

Take this story from CBC one year ago (emphasis ours, the officer's name has been redacted):

Winnipeg police unit talks to sex-trade workers, targets johns
CBC News Posted: Mar 26, 2014
Police in Winnipeg are changing the way they deal with the city's sex trade — building the trust of women who are selling sex, while going after their customers.

Since it was launched in November, the Winnipeg Police Service's Counter-Exploitation Unit has been reaching out to sex-trade workers and identifying cases of exploitation and human trafficking.

"We knew these women were being victimized to begin with. With us arresting them, we were just re-victimizing them and it … made it difficult for them to talk to the police and actually get the help that they need," says  D, who heads up the unit.

Rather than arresting the sex-trade workers, D said officers are talking to them and finding out more about their situations.

"They'll ask, like, 'Are you out here on your own? Is anybody forcing you to be here?'" he told CBC News during an exclusive ride-along.
The officer on the ride-along was then the Supervisor of the Counter Exploitation Unit. Late last year police identified the two officers under investigation as a supervisor and a trainee, but it's unknown if the supervisor is the same person, so we've redacted his name from the CBC story.
Either way, the police who spoke with Tina Fontaine were following Clunis' new orders -- talk to hookers, don't arrest them.

The fact that police announced publicly that they were investigating whether to lay criminal charges against the officers shows that Clunis had politicized the case, allowing public pressure to influence his judgement.  It came as no surprise that the Crown rejected any charges.
The announcement that the police department has "commenced disciplinary proceedings" is disturbing. Given the secrecy adopted by the police force, there is always the possibility that the internal proceedings stem from an attempt to hide the contact with Tina Fontaine, with the destruction or altering of notes or records. Tina Fontaine's body wasn't discovered until Aug. 17 and Clunis announced he didn't know police had spoken to her until Sept. 3.
But other than that, it appears that the two officers are being made the scapegoats for following the policy set down by Chief Clunis with, ultimately, disastrous results for Tina Fontaine. They are being served up as sacrificial lambs to placate the mob sentiment that somebody has to be blamed for not saving the young girl.
WPD Chief Clunis knows the REAL reason police failed to detain Tina Fontaine

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. The latest information is that there were four occupants. The identities, indeed the sex of the others has neve been made public. 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. It's also possible that the allegations of intoxication were part of a harassment policy against alleged johns.
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 police commission needs to answer -- and fast. Amen.

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