NEWS

Teen girl's family in shock over vicious attack in Winnipeg

04/02/2015 11:05 EDT | Updated 06/02/2015 05:59 EDT
The aunt and brother of a 15-year-old girl who was viciously beaten this week in downtown Winnipeg say they're disturbed by the assault and the serious extent of her injuries.

"I'm still in shock. I can't believe that happened to her. She didn't deserve that," the girl's aunt told CBC News in an interview Thursday evening.

The teen has been in critical condition in a Winnipeg hospital since she was found badly beaten early Wednesday morning on Hargrave Street near St. Mary Avenue.

"I didn't want to believe it was my sister there," said the teen's brother.

The aunt and brother are not being named to protect the identity of the girl, who is a ward of the Child and Family Services system as well as a minor and a victim of sexual assault.

The aunt said her niece is in a coma with severe head injuries. Her head is badly swollen and she cannot open her eyes, she added.

"I only went for a visit for, like, 15 or 20 minutes. I didn't really want to stand that much longer, looking at my sister like that," the brother said.

"She might not even make it the next couple nights," he added.

Boy charged with aggravated assault

A boy, also 15 years of age, has been charged with aggravated assault and aggravated sexual assault.

Winnipeg police said the suspect and victim know each other.

Both were in government care and were housed at the same downtown hotel, a few blocks away from the place where the victim was found.

"It's my understanding that they were walking around together downtown and some kind of argument ensued between the two of them," Const. Chris Wingfield told reporters earlier Thursday.

The teen's aunt described her niece as a good girl who was kind to everyone, and her brother said he and his sister were very close. The siblings lived with their grandmother in a home in Winnipeg's North End.

However, they said the girl had friends who were a bad influence, and she ended up in the child welfare system in part because she was running away from home.

"Taking off every once and a while without telling my granny … that's part of the reason why," the brother said.

When asked what she would say to her niece's alleged attacker, the aunt said, "You almost killed my niece. You should've just walked away from her if she was getting you mad. You didn't have to beat her up so bad, because she looks really bad."

2nd incident in a year

The latest attack marks the second incident within a year involving a teenage girl who was in the child welfare system.

In August 2014, the body of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine was recovered from the Red River in Winnipeg, over a week after she was reported missing.

Like the victim in the latest case, Fontaine was staying at the same Winnipeg hotel while in care last summer. She left the hotel and disappeared.

Fontaine's death is being investigated as a homicide, but no arrests have been announced.

Her great aunt, Thelma Favel, said she's disgusted to hear there is now a similar case. She wants the provincial government to fix the system.

"They shouldn't be called Child and Family [Services] because they don't care," Favel said Thursday.

"They don't care about the child. They don't care about the families that love their child."

The province says it will end the practice of housing children in care in hotels — a practice that was meant to be a last resort — by June 1.

Manitoba has about 10,000 children in care, and on any given day, dozens are put up in hotel rooms because there aren't enough foster homes.

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