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Indigenous women call on federal government to act in light of Winnipeg killings

Women call for action

The daughters of an Indigenous woman police believe to have been the victim of a serial killer urged the federal government on Tuesday to act on what they call an ongoing genocide.

Police believe Morgan Harris was one of four victims of an alleged serial killer in Winnipeg, but her body has not been found.

Harris's daughters, Cambria and Kera Harris, told a news conference in Ottawa the government needs to do more to end violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.

Flanked by members of her community and standing in a foyer outside the House of Commons, Cambria said she is heartbroken and shocked.

"Time and time again, our Indigenous women and brothers and sisters have to come here and we have to raise our voices, begging for change and begging for justice for our people," she said.

"That is wrong. I should not have to stand here today. And I should not have to come here and be so mad, and beg and beg, so that you will find and bring our loved ones home."

In 2019, a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls concluded that the centuries of violence they have endured in Canada amounts to genocide.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was criticized for stopping short of calling it genocide in his initial response to the report, but has since said he accepts the report's conclusion.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said at the news conference that federal governments continue to fail Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people and said it is "an absolute shame" that he "cannot guarantee to people that this will not happen again."

Miller promised to meet with the Harris family Tuesday.

The chief of Long Plain First Nation in Manitoba, where two of the four victims are from, said her community needs more resources, including a safe space for women that operates day and night.

"I know many communities are needing supports and services when it comes to the safety of community members," Kyra Wilson said.

NDP MP Leah Gazan, who represents a Winnipeg riding, met with Wilson, the Harris family and other Indigenous leaders Tuesday before hosting the joint press conference.

"It's time for the government to act," she said.

Gazan called for an emergency debate in the House of Commons on Monday, saying in a letter to the Speaker that "survivors, advocates and community leaders are calling for a national state of emergency to be declared in response to this crisis of violence." She said MPs should help shape the nature of the government's response.

The debate was not granted.

On Tuesday, Trudeau said his government has taken "significant steps" to invest in supports but "there's lots more work to do."

Jeremy Skibicki, 35, has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Harris, Marcedes Myran, Rebecca Contois and a fourth woman who has not been identified, but has been given the name "Buffalo Woman" by police and community leaders.

He made a brief court appearance last week and his lawyer said he maintains his innocence.

Skibicki was first charged in the death of Contois, 24, on May 18. Her partial remains were found in a garbage bin near an apartment building, and police later found the rest of her remains in a landfill.

Police believe Harris and Myran were also killed in May, while Buffalo Woman was killed in March.

In a press conference Tuesday, Winnipeg police reiterated that they do not believe it would be feasible to search for the remains of the three women, given the size and topography of the landfill, among other factors.

Harris's daughters say if police won't conduct a search to find their mother, they will.

Kera Harris said the women deserve a proper resting place.

"If you want to respect and honour them, stop making excuses as to why you can't find them," she said.

The Assembly of First Nations, which is hosting a special chiefs assembly in Ottawa, held a moment of silence for the four victims and their families Tuesday.



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