Contois family asks for ‘prayers’ as they await judge’s verdict

Supporters emotional as they recount what’s happened since Rebecca was murdered in May 2022.

Rebecca Contois, who was killed 24, lwas a mother of one, loved the colour purple and spending time with her family. Photo: APTN File

Warning: This story contains distressing details. Please read with care.

Rebecca Contois loved the colour purple, good food and being with her family.

Those were just some of the memories shared by her family last Friday at a memorial for the 24-year-old as they await a verdict in her self-confessed killer’s Winnipeg trial.

“She was taken from us in May 2022,” said her sister, Stephanie, in a statement read by family spokesperson Travis Barsy. “The pain of losing my sister Rebecca Contois never goes away. And it feels like it just happened yesterday.”

Family members, including Stephanie, and their supporters gathered at Kildonan Park in Winnipeg on June 21 to remember Contois, a mother of one from Long Plain First Nation.

Contois was among four Indigenous victims slain by Jeremy Skibicki between March 15, 2022 and May 16, 2022. Skibicki has pleaded not criminally responsible to four counts of first-degree murder due to mental disorder.

He told investigators the crimes were “racially motivated” and he stalked his vulnerable victims at city homeless shelters.

Court of King’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal is expected to deliver his decision on July 11.

People at a memorial for murder victim Rebecca Contois in Winnipeg’s Kildonan Park on June 21. Photo: Kathleen Martens/APTN News

“Rebecca was very giving and caring,” Barsy read from her sister’s statement, “and loved to laugh. She also loved to draw, bake and listen to all types of music.”

Contois was the only victim whose remains were recovered after Skibicki disposed of them in residential waste bins near his North Kildonan apartment.

“She didn’t deserve what happened to her,” Barsy continued as his voice started to break, “nobody does. She didn’t deserve to be put in a garbage bin and turned up in a landfill. Only garbage belongs there.

“Women are not garbage. They are sacred.”

Winnipeg police have said the remains of two more victims – Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran – are likely in the Prairie Green landfill on the northern outskirts of the city. They do not know where the remains of the fourth and still unidentified victim Buffalo Woman are, they said.

Stephanie asked people to pray that all of the families “get justice on July 11.”

Support workers who have been with the Contois family throughout the three-week trial took turns drumming, singing and speaking.

Family spokesperson Travis Barsy wears a purple t-shirt in honour of Rebecca Contois. Photo: Kathleen Martens/APTN News

“I love how you guys always honour Rebecca,” said Isabel Daniels of Siloam Mission. “I love how you show communities and people throughout the world just how beautiful and loved and genuine she was, and how much she meant to you.”

Darryl Contois (no relation), founder of the Evelyn Memorial Search Team, said he located Rebecca on the streets of Winnipeg in 2021 at the request of her mother, Maureen.

“I told her, ‘Your mom reported you missing,’” he said. “And this little girl, (who) looks so small and fragile, she said, ‘I’m not missing. I’m right here.’ She had a big smile on her face.

“And I said, ‘I can give you a ride to your mom.’ And she said, ‘I ain’t getting in no vehicle with you. I don’t even know you.’”

The Contois and Myran families have not been in the public eye as much as the Harris family, who has been actively pressuring the provincial and federal governments to search the landfill.

Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew was non-committal when asked whether the search would continue for Buffalo Woman if the remains of Harris and Myran were recovered first.

“First and foremost, this is a compassionate mission,” Kinew said. “… We want to bring remains home so that these families can move on through the steps of their grieving process …

“It’s not about delivering evidence and other pieces of information that can be argued in court. This is about bringing loved ones home.”

He said he anticipates a debate when the question does arise.

“I think those are some pretty intense conversations we’re going to have,” he said.

Manitoba and Ottawa have each contributed $20 million towards the search that could start in the fall. Kinew said some family members are in charge of the search oversight committee.

“I cannot praise these family members enough for the strength that they’ve shown going through all the multiple stages of this journey,” he told reporters at a technical briefing on June 20. “I’m just very, very appreciative of their continuing engagement with us.”

Support is available for anyone affected by these reports and the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous people. Immediate emotional assistance and crisis support are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through a national hotline at 1-844-413-6649.

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