In the series premiere of Taken, hosted by Lisa Meeches, we revisit the case that shocked Canada, raising awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in mainstream media: Tina Fontaine.
Tina was a 15-year-old with a sweet little baby face, remembered by her teachers to be compassionate and loving. She was also brutally murdered, her body dumped in The Red River with the intention it never be found. However, because of its brutality, it was Tina Fontaine’s case that galvanised the nation. Sergeant John O’Donovan, Winnipeg Police Service, makes a sad observation that puts this into perspective: “I think society would be horrified if we found a litter of kittens or pups in the river in this condition. This is a child. Society should be horrified.”
Thelma Favel, Tina’s great aunt who raised Tina until she left Sagkeeng to reconnect with her estranged mother in Winnipeg, shares many stories that bring the face we know from the news to life. The storytelling is aided by re-enactments in the locations where Tina was known to frequent.
This initial episode of Taken also highlights the systemic abuse and racism present in Canada today. Policies put in place throughout the country’s history have promoted these vulnerable circumstances for Indigenous women. Craig Benjamin of Amnesty International explains, “this violence is a symptom of a much larger problem than was displayed in the Residential Schools. It is a pattern of discrimination that has played out in policy in a thousand minute every day ways as well.”
This is a serious program, not meant for entertainment but to inform. Care has definitely been taken to ensure Tina’s story is treated with the respect it deserves. However, due to the sheer number of cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous women and children, Taken may trigger difficult emotions for some viewers.
I have two main concerns with this show, co-commissioned between APTN and CBC. First, CBC has yet to slot the series into their schedule. This is an investigative documentary series showcasing ongoing investigations. Each episode opens and closes with a request for information. Would it not be judicious to broadcast this to the widest audience possible in the timeliest of manners? Over time, information and leads dry up, memories can fade, evidence can be compromised, all of which can weaken the Crown’s Disclosure in the court of law. And yet CBC is not airing in conjunction with APTN’s broadcast.
My second concern relates to how Tina was initially presented in this episode. Tina was a little girl, she was not just one more murdered Indigenous child. She was a child with family and friends and hobbies. Often, we forget who the person was and they are seen only as a victim. We did learn about Tina the child, but that came later in the program. I would have preferred to get to know the child so I could grieve the loss of her.
If you do have any information about the Tina Fontaine case you are urged to contact either the authorities or Taken.
Taken airs Fridays at 7 p.m. ET on APTN.