Our Crime panel looks at the verdict in the Tina Fontaine murder trial and if justice was served, changes to victim services in Alberta and putting bullies behind bars

What system failed Tina Fontaine?

Raymond Cormier has been found not guilty of second-degree murder in the death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine. In 2014 the Sagkeeng First Nation youth’s 72-pound body was found wrapped in a duvet cover, and weighed down with rocks in Winnipeg’s Red River.

A jury of seven women and four men began deliberating Wednesday following the 12 day trial. Cormier’s defence did not call any evidence during the trial. The Crown’s case did not include any forensic evidence or eyewitness testimony connecting Cormier to the death.

The case against Cormier relied on statements he made in an undercover Mr. Big sting. Cormier did not confess to the murder, but in one of the secretly recorded conversations he said "15-year-old girl f--k. I drew the line, and that's why she got killed. She got killed, I'll make you a bet. She got killed because we found out, I found out she was 15 years old."

The Crown also called witnesses who saw Cormier and Fontaine together in the days before she went missing.

Many are drawing comparisons to the Stanley trial, in which a Saskatchewan farmer was found not-guilty in the shooting death of a young Cree man. The cases have many First Nations leaders, and politicians, calling for changes to the way Indigenous people are treated in the judicial system.

Report to improve treatment of victims by the courts

The Alberta government has announced changes with the aim of improving how victims are treated in the justice system.

An independent review into the treatment of an Indigenous sexual assault victim who was imprisoned, testified in shackles, and forced to be transported in the same vehicle as her attacker has resulted in recommendations.

Alberta’s Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley appointed Winnipeg defence lawyer Roberta Campbell to investigate the case.

This week Campbell issued a 32-page report, issuing 18 recommendations on the treatment of victims. Among her recommendations Campbell suggests an update to Sheriff and Crown policies, discusses improvements to the delivery of services and supports to victims and resources to transport, and house witnesses asked to testify.

Should bullies be put behind bars?

February 28 marks “Pink Shirt Day” with the goal of raising awareness about bullying.

The awareness day raises many questions on how best to solve the problem of bullying. Some in the legal community believe bullying should be against the law.

The town of Hanna, AB introduced an anti-bullying bylaw that earns minor caught bullying a $250 fine, a second offence could result in fines upwards of $1,000 and repeat offenders could spend six months in jail or sentenced to community service hours.

Grande Prairie has similar legislation which allows RCMP to issue $250 fines to youth.

Our Crime Panel is made up of: Mark Cherrington, youth justice advocate; Frank Work, former privacy commissioner and Keith Spencer, retired criminologist.