Manitoba MPs Gazan, Ashton demand action from Ottawa to stop ‘genocide’ of Indigenous women
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MANITOBA members of Parliament called on the federal government to devote more resources to protect Indigenous women as a criminal investigation into an alleged serial killer continues.
During question period in the House of Commons Monday, NDP MPs Leah Gazan (Winnipeg Centre) and Niki Ashton (Churchill—Keewatinook Aski) demanded action, referencing the slayings of four First Nations women at the hands of an alleged serial killer.
Jeremy Skibicki of Winnipeg is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of the four women, one of whom has yet to be identified, and whose remains police believe are somewhere in the city’s landfill.
Skibicki, 35, is accused of killing Rebecca Contois, 24, Marcedes Myran, 26, Morgan Harris, 39, and an unidentified woman whom elders have christened Buffalo Woman until her identity is discovered. Partial remains of Contois have been found; police believe the other victims’ remains were dumped at the Brady Road landfill.
Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth has said too much time has passed since the slayings — all of which investigators believe took place last spring — and a search of the landfill wouldn’t be feasible.
Gazan asked members in the House to imagine the women were their relatives.
“While the government stalls at providing resources, Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit continue to be murdered, because we are a target, Mr. Speaker. Will the government provide immediate funding to stop this genocide and the resources to search for the remains of our precious sisters?”
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said he’s been in touch with Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham and hopes to get “clear answers” about why the landfill will not be searched.
“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims,” Miller said. “It isn’t on a day like this that we can sit here and pat ourselves on the back about what we’ve been doing as a government. Obviously it has not been enough. It is very puzzling to hear the news that this landfill will not be searched,” Miller said, suggesting the feds may step in somehow.
“Clearly the federal government needs to play a role in an area where jurisdiction is a poisonous word and continues to kill Indigenous women and children in this country,” Miller said.
Ashton spoke about the alleged serial killer’s “chilling connection to neo-Nazism” and called on the federal government to address white supremacy and put forward a comprehensive plan that includes emergency shelters and economic support for Indigenous communities.
Miller responded that the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women requires comprehensive plans from all levels of government and it’s one of the reasons he’s called for a meeting in January to bring together representatives from the federal, provincial and municipal governments.
He described white supremacy as “one of the biggest terrorist threats in this country.”
Skibicki is expected to plead not guilty to all charges.
Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.