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Updated: Wed, 20 Aug 2014 10:01:59 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Thousands pack Tina Fontaine, Faron Hall vigil at Winnipeg's Oodena Circle



Hundreds, including aboriginal leaders, gathered at the Alexander Docks in Winnipeg Tuesday night to remember Tina Fontaine and Faron Hall, two people whose bodies were pulled from the Red River over the weekend. Pierre Verriere/CBC

Hundreds, including aboriginal leaders, gathered at the Alexander Docks in Winnipeg Tuesday night to remember Tina Fontaine and Faron Hall, two people whose bodies were pulled from the Red River over the weekend. Pierre Verriere/CBC

More than 1,000 people gathered at the Alexander Docks Tuesday night in Winnipeg to remember Tina Fontaine and Faron Hall, whose bodies were pulled from the Red River over the weekend.

Fontaine, 15, was reported missing on Aug. 9. Her body was recovered Sunday afternoon from the Red River near the Alexander Docks off Waterfront Drive.

Police said her body was wrapped in a bag and are treating the death as a homicide.

Hall's body was recovered from the Red River on Sunday evening near Kildonan Park, and police are not treating his death as suspicious.

On Tuesday, about 1,000 people gathered at the spot where Fontaine's body was recovered from the river.

The sound of drumming and people weeping filled the air near the dock. Leaders from Manitoba's aboriginal community attended, drum circles were held and visitors renewed calls for an inquiry into missing and murdered women in Canada.

Many who had lost loved ones held signs pleading for answers. Wilfred Catcheway held a sign with a photo of his daughter Jennifer Catcheway, who went missing six years ago in Manitoba.

The group walked from the Alexander Docks to Portage Avenue and Main Street, filling the intersection with people and blocking it to traffic.

The group headed from there to The Forks to gather in Oodena Circle, where candles were lit for the vigil. More people joined them there, bringing the group's numbers up to about 2,000.

Fontaine had 'good plans,' family says

"There's no word that described what I felt when I heard they that had found her and that she wasn't alive anymore," Thelma Favel, Fontaine's great-aunt, told CBC News on Tuesday.

"Everything was just ripped right out of me. I just didn't want to live anymore."

Fontaine, who was from the Sagkeeng First Nation, was in the care of a Child and Family Services agency when she went missing, according to police. She had run away from her foster home before, including once in July of this year. 

Lana Fontaine, Tina's aunt, said her niece would go to her home whenever she ran away. But on Sunday, police officers appeared on her doorstep.

"They told me that they found her and it wasn't good," she said, sobbing. "I just knew in my heart she was gone."

Since the teen was under the care of Child and Family Services, her death is automatically being reviewed by Manitoba's Office of the Children's Advocate.

​Lana Fontaine, who had last seen her niece a week before she disappeared, said Tina wanted to find a job and finish school.

"She had such good plans," she said.

"She was a beautiful, sweet girl, all she wanted was to live. Whoever did this to her, please come forward and let her rest."

Police said Fontaine's body was discovered while divers were searching for a man who had been seen struggling in the water near The Forks on Friday.

Hall remembered by family, friends and mayor

Hall earned the nickname of Winnipeg's "homeless hero" after saving people from drowning in the Red River on two occasions in 2009.

Police said they are not treating Hall's death as suspicious, and they did not release details about how he ended up in the water.

Hall's uncle, Patrick Hall, said any chance his nephew had to help someone in need, he'd take it.

"He didn't have [anything] to give anyone but he would offer his friendship, guidance, talk — he even risked his life to help someone in distress," he said. 

"He was very quiet, soft spoken. In my lifetime, I've never seen him to be mad at anyone."

Even though Faron was known as Winnipeg's "homeless hero," he didn't consider himself that way, his uncle said.

Mayor Sam Katz called Hall a selfless hero who deserved honour and a good life Tuesday. He taught people appearances can be deceiving and those with the least to give often give the most, Katz said.

The entire city of Winnipeg mourns his loss, said the mayor.

Hall's friend, Marion Willis, recalled him as a troubled man who battled alcohol addiction.

"The sad piece for me about Faron is that he had so much potential," said Willis. "He really could have done so much good — he did do a lot of good. He could have done so much better."

'We can begin to change,' says professor

Niigaan Sinclair, an aboriginal studies professor at the University of Manitoba, said community leaders quickly got together Monday night and decided something had to be done.

"It's very easy, but it's so endemic of a 150-year violent and abusive relationship that forms much of the basis of this country," said Sinclair.

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Sinclair said the way to help solve the issues that lead to the deaths of Fontaine and Hall is as simple as viewing people as people.

"If we begin to see Faron and Tina as human beings — as daughters for all of us, as brothers for all of us — we can begin to change. We can begin to see that the North End is as much our community as the South End," he said.

"It's as simple as forming relationships with your neighbour, it's so simple," he added. "It's forming relationships with places that you might be taught to be scared of. It's forming relationships with ideas and values and cultures."

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