The woman who raised Tina Fontaine says she is confused and upset that the man charged with killing the teen is alleging that police entrapped him in an undercover operation and fabricated evidence to build their case.
“I have complete confidence in what the investigators did, but it’s very confusing,” Thelma Favel, the Sagkeeng First Nation girl’s great-aunt, told The Globe and Mail on Monday through tears. “It feels like somebody pulled the rug out from under me. … I keep looking at her picture. I keep saying, ‘Please give me a sign of what happened to you.’ ”
Raymond Cormier, who is facing a charge of second-degree murder in Tina’s 2014 death in Winnipeg, told CBC News that he was “sucked into a ‘Mr. Big’ operation” – a controversial technique in which undercover officers create a fake underworld organization headed by a Mr. Big, who asks an individual for a confession to a crime, ostensibly so that the person can prove their criminal bona fides.
Manitoba’s Law Enforcement Review Agency, a non-police body that investigates public complaints of police misconduct, confirmed that Mr. Cormier filed a complaint about the investigation in July. Commissioner Max Churley said in an e-mail that he advised Mr. Cormier that the complaint is “outside the scope” of the province’s Law Enforcement Review Act. Mr. Cormier launched an appeal, to be heard by a provincial court judge. The next hearing is slated for Nov. 23.
Tina’s death captured the country’s attention and reignited calls for an independent inquiry into Canada’s more than 1,181 missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. The two-year, $54-million national inquiry was launched in September.
Mr. Cormier, 54, told the public broadcaster that he “didn’t harm a hair” on Tina’s head. “There is no smoking gun,” he said in an interview from the Brandon Correctional Centre in Manitoba. “There is nothing like that. There’s just a bunch of lies.”
The long-standing Mr. Big tactic has come under a microscope in recent years. In 2014, the Supreme Court said in R v. Hart that the tactic may be lawful if the target’s confession is reliable and the police did not prey on his vulnerabilities, such as mental illness, lack of education or youth. In that case, police obtained a confession from a Newfoundland and Labrador man that he drowned his twin daughters, but the top court ruled it inadmissible.
Winnipeg police declined to comment on Mr. Cormier’s allegations, noting that the murder case is before the courts. A two-week preliminary hearing is slated to begin in May.
At a news conference shortly after Mr. Cormier was arrested on Dec. 9, 2015, in Whistler, B.C., then-deputy chief Danny Smyth said information from witnesses, along with “covert operations” and forensic examinations, helped to crack the high-profile case.
Mr. Cormier told the CBC that he knew Tina, saying he saw her four times and did drugs and drank with her. He alleges that undercover police befriended him, set him up in an apartment so he could be surveilled, and paid him $2,200 for various tasks over five months. He said a man who lived down the hall called “Mohammad” hired him for small jobs and told Mr. Cormier that he worked for someone powerful, named Mr. J.
He said that in the fall of 2015 he was asked to help clean up blood after “Mohammad” purportedly assaulted a woman. Mr. Cormier said he now believes that it was a plot to see if he had experience cleaning up blood spatter.
Mr. Cormier, who has at least 92 prior convictions, said he boarded a flight last December with four men bound for Vancouver to do a job for Mr. J.
He told the news outlet that the group drove to a Whistler resort, where “Mohammad” received a phone call saying Winnipeg police were looking for Mr. Cormier in connection with Tina’s killing.
“[Mr. J.] said this, ‘You already admitted about killing Tina,’ ” Mr. Cormier said in the interview. “I said, ‘The hell with you, I never f–king said that to anybody ever. Never. Not once have I ever said that to anybody, what the hell are you talking about?’ … Then I knew that it was cops.”
The CBC reported that one of Mr. Cormier’s key arguments is that the undercover officers gave him a fake driver’s licence under the name Sebastien Roy for the trip to Vancouver. “The police say that Tina told her [Child and Family Services] worker that she was going to see a guy by the name of Sebastian. There you go. I’m not a lawyer, but that’s fabricating evidence.”
He acknowledged that he sometimes used the name Sebastian as an alias when he was selling drugs.
Crown attorney James Ross, who is prosecuting the case, said Mr. Cormier is innocent until proved guilty. “The trial court will scrutinize the police investigation and determine if the evidence against Mr. Cormier is reliable,” Mr. Ross said in an e-mail.
He said Mr. Cormier is currently without defence counsel.
With a report from Sean Fine.Report Typo/Error