Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Manitoba Children's Advocate Investigates Whether Social Services Failed Slain Teen

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Manitoba Children's Advocate Investigates Whether Social Services Failed Slain Teen

Article excerpt

Slain teen's social services involvement reviewed

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WINNIPEG - Investigations are underway to determine whether Manitoba's social services failed a 15-year-old aboriginal girl who ran away from foster care and was found dead in the Red River.

But the public may never know what exact role Child and Family Services played in Tina Fontaine's life or her death.

The province's children's advocate automatically investigates whenever a child dies while in care, but the reviews are not made public. Child welfare authorities have also begun their own internal review but that is also confidential.

Ainsley Krone with the advocate's office said Wednesday a final report will go to the Manitoba medical examiner, the ombudsman and the minister of family services.

"Under our current legislation, we don't release it publicly," said Krone, the advocate's manager of communications, research and public education. "It's the ombudsman's office that has the responsibility for tracking the progress of recommendations that we make."

Fontaine's body was found on Sunday wrapped in a bag in the Red River after she ran away from her Winnipeg foster home where she had been for less than a month. Police are treating the case as a homicide.

The teen's death touched a nerve in Winnipeg where more than 1,000 people gathered for a vigil Tuesday night to remember Fontaine and Faron Hall, the so-called "homeless hero" whose body was pulled from the same river where he saved two people from drowning several years ago.

Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross said she can't talk about the specifics of Fontaine's case but said the teen's death is heartbreaking.

"This is a young woman that had a bright future waiting for her and it was stolen," she said. "That is devastating for all of us."

Fontaine's case is being reviewed at several levels to see if there are lessons that can be drawn, Irvin-Ross said. The government is also looking at ways to make the children's advocate's recommendations public, she added.

But, she said, it's tricky.

"It's trying to find that balance between confidentiality and protecting the identity of families and children, but also making sure that we are sharing information with Manitobans."

Despite countless reviews, inquests and inquiries, Manitoba continues to have a tragic history of children who have died while in the care of social services. …

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