Chiefs support independent inquiry into murders of four First Nations women in Winnipeg

Winnipeg police told families they wouldn’t search landfill for victims’ remains

Melissa Robinson, cousin of Morgan Harris, speaks to a resolution before the Assembly of First Nations in Montreal Wednesday. Photo: APTN News

First Nations leaders from across Canada have passed a resolution seeking an independent inquiry into the investigations of the murders of Rebecca Contois, Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran, and Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe (Buffalo Woman) on Wednesday.

“When you don’t search a landfill, you’re setting a dangerous precedent that our women are trash . . .,” said Harris’s daughter, Cambria Harris, as she appealed to the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) to pass the resolution in Montreal Wednesday.

“You’re sending that to an entire community, you’re sending that to an entire nation.”

Members of the Harris family were accompanied by Cathy Merrick, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC).

“We’re asking for an inquiry to look into the circumstances of a lack of action towards the search of the landfill and also an investigation into the policing and their decisions surrounding not to search,” added Cambria.

Members of Morgan Harris’s family embrace on the floor of the Assembly of First Nations general assembly in Montreal Wednesday. Photo: APTN News

The resolution would see AFN National Chief Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak, who is from Manitoba, ask the province’s lieutenant governor to establish an inquiry into how police and provincial officials probed the 2022 killings.

Accused Jeremy Skibicki, who confessed to the serial murders but claimed he was mentally unwell, is scheduled to learn his fate Thursday when the judge delivers the verdict.

“(Winnipeg police) failed us as a family, and the many other families out there; they failed us as women and they failed us as Indigenous people,” Melissa Robinson, Morgan’s cousin, told the chiefs in assembly. “Here we are a year and a half later now doing it when they said they couldn’t.

“The police should’ve done their job, they should’ve at least tried and we wouldn’t have had to go through all this heartache.”

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AFN supports call for independent inquiry 

Winnipeg police told the families it wasn’t feasible to search the landfill for the remains of Harris, Myran and possibly Buffalo Woman. The remains of Contois were recovered.

The resolution emphasizes the importance of appointing First Nations commissioners to lead the inquiry. It said the AMC should be consulted for recommendations.

“The unanimous support from the AFN Chiefs Assembly reflected in the resolution represents a national demand for accountability regarding system and institutional failures that led to these tragic losses,” Merrick noted in a news release following the vote.

A search of the Prairie Green Landfill, north of Winnipeg, is underway.

The Manitoba and federal governments each provided $20 million towards the search.

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