Families of 3 slain First Nations women call for landfill search as admitted serial killer’s trial ends

The families of three of the four First Nations women slain by admitted serial killer Jeremy Skibicki are speaking out following closing arguments in his trial on four counts of first-degree murder. 

The family members of Rebecca Contois, 24, Morgan Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26, said the past few months leading up to the trial have been long, emotional and difficult. And that was before that had to hear the most horrific details of their deaths in court. 

The trial of Skibicki, 37, wrapped up on Monday in the Manitoba Court of King’s Bench under Chief Justice Glenn Joyal.

Defence lawyers argued on Monday that Skibicki should not be found criminally responsible for the killings because of a mental disorder.

The faces of three First Nations women are pictured side by side.
Left to right: Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran and Rebecca Contois. (Submitted by Winnipeg Police Service and Darryl Contois)

Cambria Harris, who is the daughter of Morgan Harris, was the first to speak at the news conference held Monday at the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs offices.

As the families wait for the final verdict, Harris said, they are ready to start pushing forward with searching the landfill. She said Premier Wab Kinew called the families on Friday to confirm they will have a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the next steps on thatl search. 

“I can only hope that this is one step closer to bringing my mom home and so I am keeping my hopes up for that,” Harris said. 

Kinew confimred that he will be meeting with the families at the Manitoba Legislative Building on Tuesday. 

“Because I respect the families first, the first news that I will share regarding the Prairie Green landfill search will be with those families directly,” he said. “Once we have had those conversations tomorrow, we will have a significant update for the public about the next steps in that process.”

Travis Barcey, who spoke on behalf of the Contois family, said the families continue to experience lots of grief and pain. 

Although the trial has concluded, the family and friends of the victims have a long road of healing ahead, he said. 

Landfill search ‘an obligation’

Barcey shared the sentiment that the landfill search is not a recommendation, but an obligation. 

A few family members, along with Grand Chief Cathy Merrick of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said it was upsetting that the fourth victim, whom community members have named Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe or Buffalo Woman, remains unidentified. 

“It is important to remember that the pursuit of justice does not end in that courtroom,” Merrick said. “The conclusion of this trial is just one chapter in a much larger story for our missing and murdered Indigenous women and two-spirited people.”

Merrick is urging law enforcement, and the provincial and federal governments to search the landfill and commit to changing how investigations of First Nations women who go missing in Manitoba are conducted. 

“We should not have to go to media for them to tell our story,” she said.

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.

You can also access, through the government of Canada, health support services such as mental health counselling, community-based support and cultural services, and some travel costs to see elders and traditional healers. Family members seeking information about a missing or murdered loved one can access Family Information Liaison Units.