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Small things become scary, says Indigenous teen of Fontaine case, MMIWG

Last Updated Feb 19, 2019 at 3:55 pm MST

Maryann Linklater, 19, talks about MMIWG one year after the accused in the Tina Fontaine case was found not guilty in the 15-year-old’s death. PHOTO: CityNews Winnipeg

WINNIPEG (CITYNEWS) – “I am young and I am Indigenous just like Tina Fontaine… It could be me.” The possibility of disappearing without a trace weighs on the mind of 19-year-old Maryann Linklater.

The young woman from Nelson-House-area Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation says the unsettling thought of being kidnapped or murdered in the same way 15-year-old Tina Fontaine was–along with so many other Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls–with no answers weeks, months, or years later is something she won’t soon shake.

“You always have that thing in the back of your mind thinking, ‘someone might be looking at me, someone might be following me right now. Someone could just snatch me up right now.'”

Tina Fontaine’s body was found wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down by rocks, and pulled from the Red River eight days after she disappeared in 2014. On Feb. 22, 2018, a jury found Raymond Cormier not guilty of second-degree murder in her death.

WATCH: Four years since Tina Fontaine’s death

A year later police have no new information and say they aren’t looking for any new suspects. “The fact that those people haven’t been caught–we know that they’re smart. It’s like they’ve done it before.”

Linklater says it’s unnerving growing up with the understanding that you or your loved ones could end up another name on the list of MMIWG.

“My mom told me of the precautions I should take… You always tell someone where you’re going, you always make sure you’re with someone. It’s scary being alone, especially knowing that the people doing these things are getting smarter. They’re able to do these things without getting caught,” she said.

“What if that happens to me? My family will never know what actually happened to me. I don’t want to be gone all of a sudden and my family not know that’s not what I wanted.”

Linklater said it’s stressful having to face such a terrifying prospect.

“I try to not let it get to me but sometimes I get very paranoid when I do small things. When I go for a drive by myself, when I throw out the trash, small things like that even scare me because of how big this problem is becoming and how nothing is being done about it. It’s something you think about a lot.”

Linklater moved to Winnipeg seeking better opportunities but in doing that she is isolated from friends and family from Nelson House. Her story follows a trend seen in a lot of MMIWG cases.

READ MORE: ‘So many other Tinas out there:’ Caregiver calls for changes to curb runaways

“I just moved to the city recently, and it does scare me,” she explained.

“Living in the community in Nelson House you are safe, you feel safe. And you know for a fact there are not people driving around in a van–strangers–ready to snatch you wherever you go. Because you’re around your family, because you’re around people you know, you are secure. In the city, I don’t know anybody. My family isn’t around so I can’t rely on anyone to come with me to do small things, I can’t walk around freely like I would in my own community.”

She said she does her best to not let the fear of being the next Tina Fontaine hold her back. And no matter what, she said she will always be proud of who she is.

“I braid my hair for the women who may never be able to braid her hair again. I wear my regalia for the women who will never be able to dance again… Even though there’s a possible outcome of me being murdered, being taken, I’m still proud of who I am. I’m still proud of being who I am and dressing how I dress and keeping the culture around in order to make sure we’re not actually gone,” she said.

“We are still here.”

-With files from Stefanie Lasuik