The National Family and Survivors Circle (NFSC) is calling on Winnipeg police to conduct its investigation of the murder of Rebeca Contois with “urgency, due diligence, and proper resources.”
“As the details emerge of yet another senseless murder of a young Indigenous woman, it is a reminder this is a tragedy for the family, community and the country as a whole. It is more important than ever to call attention to the urgent need for action,” the organization said in a release.
The remains of Contois, 24, were discovered in a Winnipeg lane on Monday.
According to police, someone called them Monday after spotting “something that was of concern” outside the apartment building.
Officers focused their search around a garbage bin near the building. Const. Rob Carver called it a “horrifically, grisly scene.”
On Thursday, police identified the victim as Contois.
“This is a tragedy for the entire community and the city,” Carver told a news conference.
Jeremy Anthony Michael Skibicki, 35, was charged with first-degree murder Wednesday and remains in custody.
On Thursday evening, a vigil was held where dozens of people raised fists in the air and said the young Indigenous woman’s name out loud four times.
“We love you. We honour you,” said one speaker before a group of drummers sang a traditional song outside an apartment building in the north part of Winnipeg.
Darryl Contois organized the vigil for the 24-year-old. He said he is not an immediate relative but got to know Rebecca Contois and her family last year.
He said she was bright, liked talking to people and had a good sense of humour. He last spoke with her in the winter and they talked about his work leading searches for missing people in Manitoba.
“To me, it’s all closure for families,” he told the crowd. “We all have a heart. We all have loved ones at home … let’s (show up) for them and show them that we love them still.”
Police said officers were also searching a landfill, the Brady Road Resource Management Facility, as part of the investigation.
“Due to the nature of the circumstances surrounding this investigation, homicide investigators have not ruled out the possibility of additional victims,” Carver added.
Carver did not comment on why investigators believe there could be others but said, “there are things that are leading investigators to look at that as a potential possibility.”
Officers executed a search warrant at his home, which is in the area of the apartment block. Contois and Skibicki were known to each other, said Carver.
He added that it’s very likely Contois was killed not long before her remains were found.
Investigators began searching the landfill Monday and were still there Thursday afternoon.
Carver said searching the landfill is a difficult task.
“That is going to be a long ongoing operation … police resources will be focusing on this for quite some time,” he said.
“We understand the environmental risks to our own officers who are going to be out there, to cadets who might be out there. There are hazmat concerns, which we have to take care of and plan for. We’ll be using all the resources at our disposal.”
Carver said that could include the use of drones and a canine search team.
Angie Tuesday, who is a family resource and support advocate, said she has been in touch with the woman’s family and they are “going through an intense period of grieving.”
“This was their loved one. This was their girl,” she said.
She said they have asked for privacy.
“This is traumatic. It is very troubling news for them and they deserve some respect.”
During the vigil, family and friends formed a circle around Contois’ mother, who declined to speak.
The NFSC said in its release that this is a call for governments to act.
“All governments (including Indigenous governments), agencies, institutions, organizations, and industries must implement the 2021 National Action Plan and begin fulfilling the 231 Calls for Justice outlined in the 2019 Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls,” the statement said.
“The political will to accomplish this must be exercised immediately. Each day of inaction has led directly to further violence, harm, and deaths, with more Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people murdered or going missing since the 231 Calls for Justice was released in 2019.”
With files from the Canadian Press