Police in Canada are under fire for claiming to know the location of the graves of two Indigenous women who were reportedly killed by a suspected serial murderer but that they won’t be scouring the region because of rough terrain. Jeremy Anthony Michael Skibicki, 35, is suspected of killing four Indigenous women, including Morgan Beatrice Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26, according to Winnipeg, Manitoba, police. In connection with the murders of the women, Skibicki is accused of four counts of first-degree murder.
Rebecca Contois, 24, was one of the victims, and her partial remains of her were discovered in a dump in May, according to the Winnipeg Police Department.
The Long Plain First Nation’s Harris and Myran, both residents of Winnipeg, were killed by Skibicki between March and May, according to a later police announcement. Although the fourth woman who was allegedly killed by Skibicki has not been named, she is known by the name Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, meaning Buffalo Woman.
Police suspect Harris and Myran’s remains are at a different landfill, the Prairie Green landfill north of the city, but Chief Danny Smyth of Winnipeg Police said police will not be conducting a search there on Tuesday. “Time and time again, our Indigenous women and brothers and sisters have to come here, and we have to shout and we have to raise our voices begging for change and begging for justice for our people, and that is wrong,” Cambria said.
Kera Harris said she believed police should request federal assistance with the search, rather than choosing not to investigate the site.
“I do not agree with how this is being handled,” Harris said. “How can you even fathom the idea to leave them there? These women are deserving of a proper resting place, not to be left alone in a landfill in the dead of winter,” she said.
“If you can’t find them, then why haven’t you asked for help? Why can’t you ask for help nationwide rather than just having a small amount of people conduct the searches?” Harris said.
Loved ones of the victims are not the only ones calling for further action from officials.
In a tweet Tuesday, Niki Ashton, a Member of Parliament with Canada’s New Democratic Party, said: “We remember the Indigenous women who have been targeted and killed because they are Indigenous women. Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran, Rebecca Contois, and Buffalo Woman killed by a serial killer in Winnipeg this year.”
“We stand with their loved ones calling for action now,” Ashton wrote.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International Canada issued a statement signed by a number of groups, saying the victims’ “tragic deaths by an alleged serial killer is yet another source of massive grief for Indigenous communities across Canada, whose long-called-for end to colonial violence, classism, racism, and misogyny are still not met with an adequate government or broader community response.”
“These deaths must not be ignored, nor the reality that they represent the ongoing generational harms and trauma that are rooted in violence against Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people,” the statement said.
Speaking during Tuesday’s police news conference, MacKid said: “It’s tough when we’re being criticized for almost a lack of, a lack of caring when I don’t think that’s the case. Our members are working extremely hard on this case.”
Smyth said: “We acknowledge that the families are heartbroken. We acknowledge that they’re angry, frankly. We acknowledge that a lot of people are angry.”
“We’re doing our best to bring justice to the families and that’s what we hope to do,” he said.
Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said Tuesday that he believed all levels of government have failed Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people for centuries, CBC News reported.
“I think as we recognize the failure of the federal government to keep these women safe, it’s important to realize that there are women today that are in the same vulnerable place that these women were, and that continues,” he said.
He was scheduled to meet with Morgan Harris’s family on Tuesday, as well as with the chief of Long Plain First Nation, to discuss what support the federal government could provide.
On Thursday, they charged him with three more counts of first-degree murder.
All of the victims are believed to be indigenous women, Winnipeg police said.
Police identified the suspect as Jeremy Skibicki of Winnipeg, who was first arrested on 18 May in connection to the murder of Ms Contois, a member of O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation in the province of Manitoba.
In a Thursday press conference, investigators said they believe Mr Skibicki is responsible for three other deaths.
Police Chief Danny Smyth said “it’s always unsettling when there’s any kind of a serial killing”, adding these homicides are particularly disturbing as “they involve indigenous women”.
Morgan Beatrice Harris, 39, was killed on or around 1 May, while Marcedes Myran, 26, was killed on or around 4 May. Both women are members of the Long Plain First Nation but lived in Winnipeg.
Police have yet to identify the fourth victim. They have appealed to the public for information and released photos of a reversible winter jacket that belonged to her.
Investigators, however, said they believe the unidentified victim is also an indigenous woman in her mid-20s.
The bodies of Ms Harris, Ms Myran and the unidentified woman have yet to be recovered.
Ms Cantois’ remains were discovered on 16 May in a bin on the northside of Winnipeg.