The Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) says its ground search and rescue team recovered human remains at the city’s landfill site on June 14, nearly two weeks after the search initially started for the remains of Rebecca Contois.
Police were at the dump in the hopes of finding evidence connected to the murder of Contois, 24, whose partial remains were found in a garbage disposal bin on May 16 in the city.
WPS has charged Jeremy Skibicki, 35, with first-degree murder. At the time, police indicated there could be other victims.
During a press conference on Wednesday, WPS Const. Dani McKinnon said an autopsy of the remains will be “the only way to confirm the identity of the victim found.”
WPS Family Support and Resource advocate Angie Tuesday said the service is collaborating with other organizations to provide a trauma-informed and culturally safe support to Contois’ family.
This is not the first, high-profile search for Indigenous women at the Brady landfill.
It’s been nearly ten years since the unsuccessful search for Tanya Nepinak, who was believed to have been murdered by the suspected serial killer, Shawn Lamb.
“All incidents involving missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and Two-Spirit, and gender diverse people, if it happens to one, it impacts all of us,” said Tuesday, during the news conference.
“This particular case, the details that have been released have been very traumatic on the family of course but also on other families who have experienced this loss before.”
The Assembly of First Nations Manitoba Regional Chief, Cindy Woodhouse called for urgent action to address violence against First Nations women and girls in Manitoba.
“Within the last month, we have learned of five First Nations women who have tragically lost their lives,” said Woodhouse in a press release.
Doris Trout, 25, from God’s Lake First Nation was the victim of a homicide in downtown Winnipeg on May 19. Police are looking for two women they call persons of interest in that case.
Less than two weeks later, Tessa Perry, 31, was murdered. A 29-year-old male has been charged with second degree murder in relation to her death.
On June 6, Red River North RCMP located the body of Lori Ann Mancheese, 53, in a field outside of Winnipeg.
RCMP is awaiting the results of an autopsy but said in a press release that Mancheese’s death “appears non-criminal in nature.”
However, the family has many questions about how she ended up in the field and told CTV News Winnipeg that Mancheese had mobility issues.
Woodhouse and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs have also raised concerns about the death of 24-year-old Mary Krug who was found dead on May 30.
WPS has informed APTN News they are not investigating Krug’s death as a homicide.
“It’s unacceptable that our women are losing their lives because of violence. It is three years since the release of the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls,” said Woodhouse.
“Unfortunately, we do not see momentum, we don’t see the collaborative action needed between federal and provincial governments. Violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people remain a crisis in Manitoba.
“After years and years of advocacy, forums and inquiries, it is time for action by governments at all levels to effectively ensure the safety and security of Indigenous women and girls.”
On Tuesday in Ottawa, Winnipeg Centre NDP MP Leah Gazan was joined by other advocates calling on the federal government to provide money for a safe space for women, girls, and gender-diverse people fleeing violence in the city.
“Indigenous women, girls, and diverse gendered individuals in Winnipeg are frightened for their lives and they have no access to a culturally sensitive, 24-hour, low-barrier safe space,” said Gazan.
“How many more people have to die before this government listens? How many more families have to mourn a loved one because of their failure to fund lifesaving spaces?” said Gazan.