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Thelma, an eloquent mother of three, and her husband, Joseph, had been caring for Tina and Sarah since they were three and four, when their father, Eugene, was diagnosed with lymphoma.(Their mother had left the girls as babies.) Eugene had been raising the girls on his own in Winnipeg, where he worked at a tire plant. But he never had the chance to bring them back home to Winnipeg. Last spring, Tina ran away twice to Winnipeg to visit her mom—a relationship Thelma encouraged, feeling the girl needed another parental bond after losing her dad.“He’s been separated from his friends and family, he’s been separated from his ability to work,” said Gould outside the law courts.“Everything in his entire life has been put on hold and more than that he’s been held in custody.” Ruiz was arrested last month after three victims came forward with allegations of sexual assault. Officers said the most recent victim, who is under the age of 18, was sexually assaulted between Nov. 2015, after the suspect responded to an ad for escort services.
Ruiz’s lawyer Matt Gould said the time in custody has been “extraordinarily difficult” for Ruiz.
“It’s not safe out there for Aboriginals girls,” she’d caution. The murder of the 15-year-old was only the most recent, horrifying example of the violence faced by Winnipeg’s indigenous community—a world apart from white Winnipeg.
Police divers discovered her by accident: they were searching the Red for the drowned remains of Faron Hall, the Dakota man dubbed the “Homeless Hero” for twice saving Winnipeggers from the river that eventually took his life.
Winnipeg is arguably becoming Canada’s most racist city.
But indigenous activists believe Tina Fontaine’s death also marked a turning point in race relations; that, for perhaps the first time, the brutalization and murder of a 15-year-old was not dismissed in Winnipeg as an “Aboriginal problem.” Ironically, from the fall’s horrific events, a sense of unity has begun to emerge.