So the FP went with the readers' choice---Tina Fontaine, who was described as the "heartbreaking catalyst for change."
The fact that she had been dead for four years was not a strike against her. It was the death of the fragile 15-year-old girl whose body was discarded in a blanket in the Red River that made her what she is today -- an icon of the missing and murdered aboriginal women movement.
"... Tina's story was a primary driving force behind a public inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, which the federal government granted in 2016," wrote Niigaan Sinclair, the author of the Newsmaker 2018 story.
Sinclair normally writes an opinion column for the Free Press wherein he delivers one-note rants against every known and imagined wrong by white people against natives.
In true segregationist fashion, the Winnipeg Free Press couldn't allow a white reporter to write the story about Tina Fontaine, so they gave the job to their in-house red writer. But while opinion columnists are allowed to ignore or even make up facts, news writers are not.
And that's where we came in.
The Niigaan Sinclair story is a classic example of fake news.
And that's the sort of reporting that Winnipeg Free Press editor Bob Cox is committed to saving thanks to his campaign for federal government subsidies to newspapers. The papers won't have to worry about publishing fake news and turning off readers anymore; government subsidies will keep the papers profitable with or without readers.
The Tina Sinclair Newsmaker story was presented as a news story, not opinion. So when we read it we were careful to check the factual bases of the story.
"By all accounts, the 15-year-old from Sagkeeng First Nation was a bright, happy teenager. Her aunt Thelma Favel said she was always respectful, and loved to bake with her family. She was separated from her mother but cared for by Favel, her ill father, and other members of her family. She loved children and planned a future working with them." wrote Sinclair.
On what planet?
Maybe when Tina Fontaine was a pre-teen, she was all these things. But by the time of her death she was a chronic runaway, a thief, a doper, a prostitute---everything you don't want your daughter to be.
She wasn't planning a future working with children. She was planning what hovel she could crash at with her boyfriend and how to get drugs to get high.
The story was even illustrated with a photo of an angelic Tina Fontaine in a sweet pose highlighting her innocence. That photo was obviously taken years before she disappeared. The Free Press won't run the last photo of Tina Fontaine, showing the hair partially regrown over the half of her head she had shaved, the big hoop earrings, and the punkish red jacket she was wearing.
"Then, as the public learned about how Tina was failed by the health-care system, police and federal, provincial and municipal governments, the story of Tina's life, and her death, became a condemnation of Canada," harangued Sinclair.
We addressed this canard three years ago here:
The system worked perfectly. Every time she fell, there was a safety net to catch her. The problem was her. She refused all help. She had been raised in such a dysfunctional environment that she rejected the good for the attractions of the bad.
Sinclair, of course, mentions "the police who could have helped Tina just before she was killed". You mean the police officers who were made scapegoats for following former-Police Chief Devon "Mack Daddy" Clunis' police of non-intervention with teenage prostitutes? When they met Tina Fontaine she had just hopped into a stranger's truck to pick up some quick money.
The hook for making Tina Fontaine the year's newsmaker was the trial of the man accused of murder in her death. He was found not guilty by the jury. Sinclair's story fails to mention the Crown brought the charge to trial even though there was no evidence against the man.
Sinclair quotes Arlen Dumas, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, as saying the verdict was 'not acceptable'.
"How can we talk about reconciliation when the very nets that we're asked to participate in do not fulfil what they're supposed to fulfil?"
What's not acceptable about justice being done. The man wasn't convicted because there was no evidence against him. No, really, there was no evidence.
A real newspaper would have used this as an opportunity to examine how the aboriginal community sees the legal system. A real newspaper would have delved into what their understanding is of the presumption of innocence and the state's duty to get a verdict from a jury convinced "beyond a reasonable doubt". Do the "chiefs" reject the hundreds of years of jurisprudence based on Judeo-Christian principles? A real newspaper would have asked what sort of justice system would satisfy the aboriginal community and protect the public at the same time?
A real newspaper would have examined the decision by police brass to spend months trying to trick the accused man into confessing to Tina Fontaine's murder by techniques straight out of the Stasi guidebook--- bugging his home 24-7 and actually acting out various scenarios with police officers to engage him and get him to say something incriminating.
The Winnipeg Free Press carries pages and pages of house ads for themselves every day. The weekend newspaper is packed with multi-page stories of little interest. So the problem is not of lack of space. It's lack of will coupled with a lack of news sense.
Take the trial of Tina Fontaine's alleged killer, for example. A big problem of the prosecution was that there was no cause of death. She wasn't shot, stabbed, strangled or beaten to death that the coroner could see. In short, there was no evidence of murder.
So how did she die?
The answer was blatantly obvious. It was even discussed during the trial. A real newspaper would have explored the likely cause of death. But that would have destroyed the agreed-upon narrative. How could she be among the murdered aboriginal women is she wasn't murdered?
Read the stories of the trial and you will see repeated references to "the 71-pound" girl. A normal 15-year-old girl weighs about 115 pounds. Tina Fontaine was only two-thirds the weight of a healthy girl of her age.
The toxicologist who testified said Tina Fontaine was drunk and stoned on pot when she died. He found no evidence of the other drugs she was exposed to at the residence she was staying---cocaine, meth or gabapentin (a prescription drug to control seizures which can also cause seizures and suicidal thoughts).
But its obvious that offered that smorgasbord of drugs, Tina Fontaine was a walking time bomb. Weighing a third less than a normal girl at 15, she was susceptible to an overdose of one or more of those drugs at any moment.
Faced with the body of a dead underage girl, someone wrapped it in a bed covering and disposed of it in the river rather than answer questions by police.
But none of that fit the narrative for the Winnipeg Free Press Newsmaker of 2018.