The Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations says the federal government is failing in its responsibility to protect Indigenous women and girls, despite allocating money to the issue.
Marc Miller said Friday he was shocked to learn that Winnipeg police had charged a man with the alleged murder of four women last spring.
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“It’s the legacy of a devastating story that has repercussions today,” he said. “No one can stand in front of you with confidence to say it won’t happen again and I think that’s a bit shameful.”
Jeremy Skibicki has been charged with four counts of first degree murder in the deaths of Rebecca Contois, 24, Morgan Harris, 39, Marcedes Myran, 26, and an unidentified fourth woman.
Three of the women’s bodies have not been found.
Contois, Harris and Myran are Indigenous and police believe the fourth victim is also Indigenous.
Skibicki was initially charged with first-degree murder on May 18 and kept in custody after Contois’ partial remains were found in a trash can near an apartment building. Police later found the rest of his body at a Winnipeg landfill.
Contois lived in Winnipeg, but was a member of the O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation, also known as Crane River.
Harris and Myran also lived in Winnipeg and were both members of Long Plain First Nation.
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Police said Harris, Myran and Contois were killed in May.
They said the fourth woman was believed to have been killed on or around March 15, 2022. They posted a photo of a jacket similar to the one she was wearing.
At a vigil Thursday night, Cambria Harris said what happened to her mother and the three other women amounted to genocide of Indigenous women.
The Family Advocate for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says First Nations women are being left behind.
“We continue to witness the vulnerability of our homeless women,” Cora Morgan said in a statement Friday.
“They feel like their voice doesn’t matter or their life doesn’t matter. Our women deserve better.
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Winnipeg has often been referred to as ground zero or the epicenter of the crisis of violence against Indigenous women and girls.
Miller said the federal government will continue to work to address some of the systemic issues that put Indigenous women in vulnerable situations, including reforming the child welfare system and opening more shelters.
“The federal government has a responsibility. Despite the investments we have made – and they are significant – we are dragging on in the face of tragedy.
Grand Chief Cathy Merrick of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs calls on the federal and provincial governments to work with police to implement the recommendations of the national inquiry aimed at addressing the root causes of violence against indigenous women and girls.
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