From Tina Fontaine to the Rebel 5: Manitoba's top 10 most influential news stories of the decade

Global News Reporter Brittany Greenslade breaks down the top 10 stories of the decade in Manitoba, which includes welcoming back the Winnipeg Jets and a tragic death that sparked a national conversation.

It’s been a tumultuous and often polarizing decade for Manitoba, full of hopes and fears, crime and compassion, growth and stagnation.

The Global News Winnipeg team sifted through the decade and picked our top news stories of 2010-2019 before we ring in the new year and decade.

Here’s our list:

10. Canadian Museum for Human Rights and Journey to Churchill open – 2014

It’s the only national museum outside of Ottawa and it focuses on human rights abuses around the world, including here at home.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights was, and continues to be, a stunning tribute to human strength and resilience and is an instantly-recognizable building that was placed on the new Canadian $10 bill in 2018. It has drawn millions of visitors since it opened.

Meanwhile, the province and city made major investments in upgrades to one of Winnipeg’s top tourist destinations — the Assiniboine Park Zoo. After $90 million in renovations  the Journey to Churchill opened in 2014 and features our most famous animal — the polar bear. Hudson was the first resident bear, and while he and his pal Humphrey moved to Toronto Zoo in 2016, several polar bears still call Journey to Churchill home.

9. Jennifer Jones and Team Canada go undefeated to win curling Olympic Gold in Sochi – 2014

Canada's skip Jennifer Jones celebrates after winning the women's curling gold medal game against Sweden at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.

Canada's skip Jennifer Jones celebrates after winning the women's curling gold medal game against Sweden at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.

Wong Maye-E / The Associated Press

Team Canada’s Olympic curling team of Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer, Dawn McEwen and alternate Kirsten Wall hurried hard to an Olympic gold medal in 2014. Their perfect 11-0 record in Sochi, Russia was capped by a 6-3 win over the Swedes and made Olympic history, with Jones becoming the first female skip to go through the Olympic curling round-robin undefeated.


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Winnipeg street named for Olympic gold-medal curling team

Jones and her team have since been thoroughly recognized in their hometown of Winnipeg, including having streets named in their honour, and the team has inspired a generation of curlers ever since.

8. B.C. murder suspects found dead outside Gillam – 2019

It was a shocking series of murders that started in the west and ended in northern Manitoba.

The lifeless bodies of Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, were found outside Gillam, Man, after a massive manhunt that started in Port Alberni, B.C. RCMP later claimed the pair admitted on video to killing American Chynna Deese, her Australian boyfriend Lucas Fowler, and Vancouver botany lecturer Leonard Dyck, although the recordings have never been released.

The manhunt taxed the RCMP’s resources and saw dozens of officers flood the remote area searching for the pair. The police have still not released a motive for why Deese, Fowler and Dyck were murdered.

7. PST raised to 8%, the Rebel Five and implosion of provincial NDP – 2013-2016

It was a decision to raise the PST that ultimately swept the long-reigning NDP from provincial power in Manitoba.

Faced with a $1-billion flood bill from 2011 and several years of deficits, Premier Greg Selinger decided to raise the Provincial Sales Tax to eight per cent from seven. This, along with backroom bickering, led to the Rebel Five — five MLAs including Jennifer Howard, Stan Struthers, Theresa Oswald, Andrew Swan and Erin Selby — resigning from cabinet posts, citing “grave concerns” about their ability to voice their opinions.

Selinger was able to hold onto his premiership through a leadership challenge within the party.


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Premier announces new cabinet after 5 ministers resign

By 2016, voters had had enough, and Brian Pallister and the Manitoba Progressive Conservative party won a decisive PC election victory for the first time since losing in 1999. Selinger resigned as leader following the dismal election results.

6. Letter bombs mailed to law firm, other Winnipeg businesses – 2015

On July 3, 2015, Winnipeg lawyer Maria Mitousis opened a package addressed to her at her law office, and it exploded. Miraculously, the then-38-year-old lawyer survived, but lost her right hand and was left with scarring on her body.

The crime stunned Winnipeggers and police alike. Police soon uncovered two more bombs mailed to various businesses.


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The city remained panicked and on edge, which sparked multiple calls to police and its bomb unit regarding suspicious packages around the city.

Guido Amsel was arrested and found guilty of four counts of attempted murder and numerous other offences. The man, who fired lawyers during his trial and whose antics plagued the court system, sent the letters to several businesses associated with his divorce. Mitousis represented his wife during their divorce.

5. Violent crime, liquor store thefts and record-breaking murders – 2019

Winnipeg police were overwhelmed in 2019 as violent crime spiked and the city saw its worst-ever year for homicides.

Liquor store thefts were in the spotlight as groups began targeting Manitoba Liquor Marts and stealing dozens of bottles in swarms. It came to a head when during one violent robbery, the 15-year-old accused punched a clerk in the head unprovoked, rendering her unconscious.

When the video leaked online, officials from Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries announced new secure entrances for stores.


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Crime severity spikes in Winnipeg, Manitoba has highest provincial homicide rate

Meanwhile, police said they were seeing more “improvised weapons” on the street and gun crime, and gang activity was suspected in numerous homicides. On Dec. 18, Winnipeg police announced that a man who had died in a house fire on Halloween was homicide 42, the record-breaker for the previous record of 41 set in 2011.

Since then, Winnipeg’s homicide count stands at 44.

Thanks to a series of 10 homicides in a month, from Oct. 7 through Nov. 4, including the stabbing death of a three-year-old boy, police plowed their community outreach resources into the homicide and major crimes unit, shutting down some district stations to the public until January. Whether they will re-open remains to be seen.

4. Bombers end Grey Cup drought – 2019

It was a playoff run not seen in a generation.

It took 29 years, but the Winnipeg Blue Bombers brought home the CFL’s biggest trophy in 2019 after defeating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 33-12. The third-place-in-the-west Blue and Gold surprised everyone with their victory, considering the team lost their starting QB Matt Nichols to injury halfway through the season, and former Saskatchewan Roughrider QB Zach Collaros was snapped up late in the season to lead the team to a trophy they hadn’t won since 1990.

The celebration and parade that followed brought several meme-worthy moments, but none more memorable than a shirtless QB Chris Streveler, decked out in a fur coat, gold chain, white cowboy hat, and stogie, who screamed at the crowd “I’m lit right now, you’re all lit right now, this is amazing!”

3. Hundreds displaced during Assiniboine River flood – 2011

Bill Langdon marks out his driveway in the floodwaters in front of his home in Twin Beach in May 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Bill Langdon marks out his driveway in the floodwaters in front of his home in Twin Beach in May 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

A wet fall and a fast melt usually means a Red River flood, but this time, it was the Assiniboine River that spilled its banks and forced the displacement of hundreds of people.

Above-average precipitation in western Manitoba and Saskatchewan flooded the Assiniboine River Basin and resulted in a 1-in-300 year flood. Small communities and the City of Brandon were placed on alert and built up dikes, but a heavy snowstorm in late April meant despite the Portage Diversion running at full capacity, dikes downstream would be overwhelmed.


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Lake Manitoba residents remember flood that devastated homes and cottages

The only way to save downstream communities was a deliberate breach in the river at the Hoop and Holler bend to dump water into the La Salle river shed. The breach worked but flooded communities, leading to the evacuation of 18 First Nations.

One of those First Nations was Lake St. Martin, which was evacuated to Winnipeg, and the entire First Nation had to be rebuilt on higher ground. Some residents were displaced for more than five years as they waited for the province and the federal government to figure out who was going to pay for what.

More than 7,000 people were displaced and as of Dec. 2019, more than 1,000 are still out of their homes.

2. The return of the Winnipeg Jets – 2011

A Winnipeg Jets fan holds up a cowbell before the Jets inaugural game against the Montreal Canadiens at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A Winnipeg Jets fan holds up a cowbell before the Jets inaugural game against the Montreal Canadiens at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Portage and Main has never looked better.

The city flooded with excitement as the worst-kept secret that year finally was confirmed — Winnipeg would soon be home to an NHL team once again.

True North Sports and Entertainment, created by the local Chipman family, bought the Atlanta Thrashers and moved the team back to Winnipeg. In April of 2011, Mark Chipman and a cadre of local politicians and business leaders held a press conference to announce the move, and fans immediately gathered at Portage and Main to celebrate.


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Winnipeg Jets trying not to repeat Atlanta’s mistakes in inaugural season

The Thrashers were renamed the Jets and the Jets 2.0, as they are affectionately called, sold out five years’ worth of season tickets in a few hours.

The return of the Jets ignited an optimism rarely seen in the River City, and their return is one of the major events that has reverberated and continued to help revitalize the city’s downtown core.

1. Tina Fontaine’s death sparks MMIWG Inquiry – 2014

The death of yet another young woman in Winnipeg sparked a nationwide movement that called police and politicians to the carpet over the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.

Tina Fontaine, 15, was originally from Sagkeeng First Nation and was deeply affected by the beating death of her father, Eugene, in 2011, said her aunt. She went to Winnipeg to visit her biological mother and eventually came into the custody of Child and Family Services.


READ MORE:
How the tragic death of Tina Fontaine helped spark the MMIWG inquiry

Fontaine ran away and was believed to be in the company of a man named Raymond Joseph Cormier. Her body was pulled from the Red River on Aug. 17, 2014, wrapped in a tarp and a duvet cover. Cormier was charged with her murder but was found not guilty on Feb. 22, 2018, partly due to the fact her cause of death could never be determined.

Fontaine’s death sparked outrage across Canada and the Canadian Human Rights Commission requested a full inquiry into her death. In 2016, new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the national inquiry, called Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).

The young girl’s death also prompted the formation of other groups, including a volunteer group called Drag the Red, the Strong Hearts Buffalo Women Crisis Stabilization unit, and a drop-in safe space for youth called Tina’s Safe Haven at Ndinawe agency. In March of 2019, Manitoba’s Child Advocate released a report documenting her life and outlined the shortcomings of the agencies that failed her.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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