Serial Killer Resurfaces Trauma Of Canada’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

A Canadian man, Jeremy Skibicki, charged with the murder of Rebecca Contois in May has now been charged with three more counts of first-degree murder in Winnipeg, Manitoba. All victims were Indigenous women including Contois, 24, a member of the O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation, Morgan Beatrice Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26, both hailing from the Long Plain First Nation. The fourth unnamed victim is also believed to have been Indigenous. The murders have sparked fresh anger and frustration at the failure of the Canadian Government to protect vulnerable Indigenous women and girls, yet again.

Indigenous women and girls are disproportionately victims of murder and disappearance in Canada, the United States, and Latin America. This epidemic is known as ‘Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls,’ (MMIWG) and has prompted a movement that advocates for the end of violence against and disappearance of Native women and girls. In response to this, Canada’s Government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau set up the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in September 2016. The inquiry found that between 1980 and 2012, Indigenous women and girls comprised 16% of all female homicides in Canada. This fact is significant considering they constitute just 4% of Canada’s female population. Further, a 2014 report from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police revealed that over a span of 30 years, over 1,000 indigenous women and girls were murdered in Canada. However, The Guardian has reported that the number could be higher than 4,000. Trudeau, in 2019, declared to Indigenous victims’ families and Indigenous leaders that ‘We have failed you. We will fail you no longer.’ Yet, these cases still lack attention; Indigenous women and girls continue to be murdered and missing at a disproportionate rate.

“When will the protection of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited individuals be taken seriously?” tweeted Manitoba shadow Justice Minister Nahanni Fontaine after Skibicki’s arrest. “This alleged killer walked amongst us. He was in our city, our neighbourhoods, our places of work. He was not invisible. But our women, girls and two-spirited are,” she wrote. Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham has since declared that “we have much more work to do to protect the lives of Indigenous women and girls.”

Skibicki remains in custody and the trial date is unconfirmed. Police are dealing with a large volume of evidence and have declared that they were not ruling out more victims.

Far more must be done to respond to this epidemic – these are clear human rights abuses, and many are labelling these tragedies as genocidal. According to Amnesty International, “when a woman is targeted for violence because of her gender or because of her Indigenous identity, her fundamental rights have been abused. And when she is not offered an adequate level of protection by state authorities because of her gender or because of her Indigenous identity, those rights have been violated.” Stronger national action plans must be enforced to address the drivers of this violence and to ensure police are held accountable with effective responses to these issues. Regular data collection of violence and disappearances also must be applied due to the Government’s historical inactions which have been rooted in colonial ideologies.

“Bad people commit these horrible crimes against Native women,” said Malinda Limberhand, mother of Hanna Harris who was murdered in 2013 on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, “but it is the system that allows it to happen generation after generation.”