Canada is in shock following the murders of four Indigenous women
A new wave of rage and grief over Canada’s continued failure to uphold its commitments to protect vulnerable women and girls has been sparked by the arrest of an alleged serial killer who preyed on Indigenous women in central Canada.
Police in Winnipeg announced late on Thursday they had charged Jeremy Skibicki, 35, with the murder of Morgan Beatrice Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26, of Long Plain First Nation, months after he was accused of killing Rebecca Contois, 24, from O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation.
In addition, Skibicki was accused of killing a fourth, unidentified victim who is thought to be Native American. The bodies of the most recent three victims have not yet been discovered.
On Thursday night, a candlelight vigil was held outside Skibicki’s house in Winnipeg as family mourned the death of mothers, daughters, and a grandmother.
“I want her to be remembered as happy-go-lucky. She was silly. She was fun. People loved to be around her,” said Cambria Harris, Morgan’s daughter.
Harris, 39, was referred to as a “fearless” mother of five and grandma by her cousin Kirstin Witwicki.
Following the arrest of a “monster” who had been stalking the neighbourhood, Nahanni Fontaine, the shadow justice minister for Manitoba, said on Twitter that she and other people were feeling “anger, despair, contempt and indescribable pain.”
“This alleged killer walked amongst us. He was in our city, our neighbourhoods, our places of work. He was not invisible. But our women, girls and two-spirited are,” she wrote.
“When will the protection of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited be taken seriously? Winnipeg now has the distinction of having two separate serial killers of Indigenous women. Are we waiting for a third or fourth to rear their murderous heads?”
Some people’s pain was made worse by political leaders’ broken promises to end decades of abuse against Indigenous women.
It’s estimated that 4,000 Indigenous women and girls have died or gone missing in Canada over the past 30 years, however it’s unlikely that the exact number of victims will ever be revealed.
“We have failed you. We will fail you no longer,” the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, told families in 2019, following a landmark report that concluded “state actions and inactions rooted in colonialism and colonial ideologies” were a key driving force in the disappearance of thousands of Indigenous women.
Indigenous women are six times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous women, according to the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls’ report.
Additionally, reports of Indigenous people being overpoliced but crimes against them being underinvestigated have brought police in other parts of the country under fire.
The untimely deaths of 14 Indigenous people in the city of Thunder Bay in Ontario have prompted a call for a new probe by a group of independent investigators who discovered that the initial inquiries were hampered by shoddy police work and a history of institutional racism.
The mayor of Winnipeg, Scott Gillingham, told reporters on Thursday night that “condolences are not powerful enough.” “What I’m experiencing right now is a mixture of anger and sorrow. We still have work to do to improve safety in this neighbourhood.