POLITICS

Opposition calls on Manitoba government to release review into teen's death

03/30/2015 12:44 EDT | Updated 05/30/2015 05:59 EDT
WINNIPEG - Manitoba's Opposition is accusing the governing NDP of sitting on an internal investigation into how a 15-year-old girl in the care of social workers disappeared before her body was found wrapped in a bag in the Red River.

Conservative critic Ian Wishart said the Child and Family Services review into Tina Fontaine's death could help save the lives of other vulnerable children. Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross should be making changes to prevent similar deaths instead of keeping the report secret because of privacy concerns, he said.

"We think they've been using this privacy issue far too often," Wishart said. "There are youth at risk. The minister is responsible for these youth. Withholding information that may be of value in terms of reducing the risk to some of these youth is not the way to go."

Fontaine was reported missing from foster care last August. She came into contact with Winnipeg police days later but was not taken into custody. A few hours later, she was found passed out in a downtown alley and taken to hospital. She was picked up by social workers and taken to a hotel where she ran away again.

Her body was found wrapped in a bag in the Red River more than a week later.

Her death touched a nerve across the country and reignited calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. Winnipeg police launched their own internal review into how her disappearance was handled and determined not to lay charges against the officers who came into contact with the teen.

Child and Family Services, as well as Manitoba's Children's Advocate, is also conducting their own investigations. While the advocate's report is delayed by the ongoing police investigation, Wishart said the province's review is complete.

"We've heard from people that were involved in the report that it has been completed for some time," he said. "What minister wouldn't want a report written very quickly on such a serious issue?"

A spokeswoman for Irvin-Ross said she was not available to discuss Fontaine's death or the progress of the internal investigation. Rachel Morgan emailed a statement to the media stating the report has not been finalized yet because of the ongoing police investigation.

Family services "has taken the first steps in what will be a broad review," she wrote without elaborating.

But neither that review, nor the specific report into Fontaine's death, will be made public.

"Because internal CFS reviews touch on the intimate details of the lives of children and families, these are not made public due to the need to respect their privacy," Morgan wrote. "This right to privacy is protected by law."