Standing outside the Winnipeg courthouse, Tina Fontaine's mother looked over at the nearby remand centre where the man accused of killing her daughter is in custody.
In a rare interview with The Globe and Mail on Tuesday, a tearful Tina Duck recalled the moment she learned it was her child's body that police had found in the city's Red River in August of last year.
"I wanted to see my daughter," she said. "I wanted to know if it was her or not. All they said was for us to just remember the way she looked, and then they described the tattoo on her back."
Tina's tattoo, which was dedicated to her father, who was beaten to death in 2011, was the identifying factor, given the state of the indigenous teen's remains.
Provincial court documents say police believe 53-year-old Raymond Cormier killed Tina around Aug. 10, 2014 – one week before search divers who were looking for the remains of someone else happened upon her corpse, wrapped in plastic. Mr. Cormier has been charged with second-degree murder.
Proceedings related to his case were put over Tuesday and pushed forward to Jan. 8. Mr. Cormier's lawyer, Pamela Smith, has told The Globe her client will contest the charges. She said she expects the Crown will provide her with a hard-drive of the evidence against Mr. Cormier by the end of the week.
In announcing the arrest last Friday, Deputy Police Chief Danny Smyth said Mr. Cormier, who has more than 80 convictions dating back to 1978, was taken into custody on Dec. 9 in the Vancouver area. Constable Jason Michalyshen, a police spokesman, confirmed in an e-mail on Tuesday that the arrest took place in Whistler, B.C.
Ms. Duck said she has never seen the man accused of killing her daughter, whose death galvanized the movement to end violence against indigenous women and provoked changes to the province's child-welfare system. Red dresses, a symbol of Canada's missing and murdered aboriginal women, hang at the snow-covered dock where Tina's body was found.
Tina and her younger sister, Sarah, were mostly raised in rural Manitoba by their great aunt and uncle, Thelma and Joseph Favel, after the girls' father, Eugene Fontaine, was diagnosed with cancer. The Favels placed Tina in Child and Family Services care in July, 2014, hoping she would get support services to help her cope with her father's beating death.
Ms. Duck, who met Mr. Fontaine at a Winnipeg house party when she was 12 years old, fell into alcoholism years ago and left her girls with their father when they were toddlers.
She reconnected with Tina in her teenaged years, spending time with her in Winnipeg in July of last year. She said her daughter mostly stayed in the city's West End, and does not know anything about the east-end residence police say Tina and Mr. Cormier frequented.
The Sagkeeng First Nation teen was last seen alive on Aug. 8, 2014. On that date, she was in contact with paramedics, a CFS contract worker and police, who did not take her into their care even though she was listed as a missing person. Tina, who had been assigned an emergency foster-care placement at a downtown Winnipeg hotel, was reported missing again on Aug. 9, 2014. Constable Michalyshen said police believe she was killed that day or the next.
Ms. Duck said that while she did not raise Tina, she misses her every day and her heart is broken that her daughter became one of Canada's missing and murdered indigenous women.
"She would be 17 in January," she said. "It's not right. A kid isn't supposed to go before her mom."