Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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Winnipeg Indigenous mom asks: 'What if I am the next one?'

Rosanna Deerchild reflects on death of Tina Fontaine, missing and murdered aboriginal women

By Rosanna Deerchild, CBC News

“It’s just part of my day,” she said. “Every day.”


The girl was slight, slender and pretty. She reminded me of the girl we had just been talking about. So much so that I had to look away for fear the tears that threatened from behind my eyes would burst out in messy confession.

Tina Fontaine was only 15-years-old and in the dubious care of child and family services when she went missing in early August. It wasn’t long before they found her, though; tied up in a bag and discarded in the Red River like trash.

This small girl-child, who weighed just 100 pounds and had only been in the city for a month before she was stolen off the street, was exploited and murdered.

Another one taken, another one killed.

Another name to add to the 1,200-plus list of Indigenous women and girls that have vanished or have been killed across Canada.

Another vigil. Another rally. Another plea to say please, please stop killing us.

I was tired, so tired of this narrative: the same headline hints of victim blaming, the same denial from those who say there is no problem and the same damn rejection from this country’s leaders to do something.

I was giving a workshop that day and dragged my heavy heart to a North End building to teach youth about storytelling. I sat in a circle with a small group of young Indigenous people who grew up in this city seeing and living through what many of us probably wouldn’t believe.

I shared my story. I told them that as a storyteller it was my responsibility to tell the stories of our people; to reclaim voice, take up space and fill it with the stories that whisper all around us.

I told them that for too long we have been made silent and we must speak out.

I didn’t have to wait long.

Those present shared their stories, or at least pieces. Soon we were talking about Tina and the reality many girls just like her face every day.

“This city is not safe,” said one. “For any of us,” added another.

“Not even in our own house,” said the slight girl who sat across from me.

She told me about the time she was visiting someone and suddenly the cops were everywhere, the city’s police helicopter flying overhead with its bright staff-like beam cutting through the thin curtains.

It turns out the guys they were looking for were hiding in the stairwell. What if, I thought, horrified, she had decided to leave just then?

What if?

It’s a question that lingers in the back of my mind. As an Indigenous woman and a mother of two girls, we must always be vigilant. Always. Even in our homes.

The slight, pretty girl told me that every day, every single day, someone hollers at her from a passing car, slows to a crawl and asks if she wants a ride.

Even when she is with her five-year-old daughter. Think about that for a minute.

“It happens to me every day.”

Our girls cannot walk these streets without fear, without thinking, “What if?”

'What if I am the next one?'

And I had no story for her. No words. No answers.

Do you?

As I watched her walk away from the building that day, I prayed for her. I begged Creator to please let her live. Please, let her make it home.

Today. Every day.

Rosanna Deerchild is a writer, broadcaster and mother. She lives and loves in Winnipeg.

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