MMIWG Families Slam ‘Colonial’ Inquiry Process, Demand Hard Reset

Marion Buller chief commissioner of national inquiry. (CP)

Relatives, supporters says their concerns have been ignored by commissioners, minister

Dozens of family members, activists and academics have written an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demanding the “deeply misguided” inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls be scrapped and restarted with a new panel of commissioners.

The coalition says relatives have been shut out of the process and that commissioners are on a path that will not lead to the successful fulfillment of the inquiry’s mandate.

“They have continually dismissed our concerns, refused to take steps to rebuild trust, and have maintained a deeply misguided approach that imposes a harmful, colonial process on us,” the letter reads. “This has and continues to create trauma as well as insecurity and a lack of safety for our families, communities, and loved ones.”

Families wrote a letter complaining about being excluded three months ago, but say their deep-seated concerns were ignored. The letter was used only to pit families against families, the coalition said.

Families and supporters are also accusing Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett of dismissing their concerns.

A statement from the minister’s office said the government remains committed to ending the “ongoing national tragedy,” and that the inquiry’s terms of reference require that families be central to the commission’s work.

After meeting with the commissioners, Bennett was satisfied they had a plan and dedication to address families’ concerns, which will adapt as the inquiry progresses.

‘Immediate action’

The statement said the government is working in the meantime with Inuit, First Nations and Métis partners to honour the lost and to advance reconciliation.

“We’ve taken immediate action with a new gender-based violence strategy, changes to the child and family welfare system for Indigenous children, safe housing, shelters and work with British Columbia towards safe transport on the Highway of Tears,” the statement reads.

The inquiry has been plagued with problems, including staff departures and last month’s resignation by Marilyn Poitras, a Métis professor at the University of Saskatchewan. She cited issues with the “current structure” of the inquiry, which is set to get underway this fall.

But the letter from relatives and supporters says too much damage has been done and too much time has lapsed to rebuild trust now.

Instead of drawing on Indigenous knowledge and practices, the inquiry has been rooted in a colonial model that prioritizes a Eurocentric medical and legal framework, it reads.

“Such an approach is rooted in a broader culture of colonial violence that is inherently exploitative towards Indigenous peoples and causes ongoing trauma and violence for us as families,” the letter says.

Health, legal and community relations team workers for the inquiry are scheduled to be in two Saskatchewan cities this week to meet with families who wish to participate.

The teams are in Regina and Saskatoon to get in contact with families who want to participate in the truth gathering process which will be held in Saskatoon in November.

Source: CBC News

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Mounties Issue Plea for Help from Small Community to Find Girl’s Killer

Leah Anderson, a 15-year-old girl who was brutally slain and left on a snowy trail in Gods Lake Narrows, Man., in 2013. (RCMP photo)

The Canadian Press | July 18, 2017 

GODS LAKE NARROWS, Man. — RCMP have issued a plea on social media for help from a small, isolated Manitoba community to find the killer in their midst.

Manitoba Mounties posted on their Facebook page Tuesday the story of Leah Anderson, a 15-year-old girl who was brutally slain and left on a snowy trail in Gods Lake Narrows, Man., in 2013.

Her body was in such bad shape it was initially thought she had been attacked by wolves or dogs, but eventually investigators concluded she had been viciously beaten.

At first, RCMP asked volunteers to submit DNA samples, conducted interviews and even did lie detector tests, but one by one the suspects were ruled out.

However, on Tuesday, Mounties posted they have made “significant advancements” in the investigation.

They said they have narrowed down the remaining suspects and determined that the killer was a male and known to Anderson, but said they need the Cree community to “come together” with any new information that might lead to an arrest.

Located 550 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, Gods Lake Narrows is accessible only by air or ice road in the winter.

The night Leah died started out as a typical one for the “bright, happy” teenager, Mounties said.

“Hey hey hey, you you you, how are you?” she kidded with a friend in her last post on Facebook.

She had planned to meet up with a buddy to go skating but the plans fell through so she headed toward the rink by herself at 7:30 p.m.

“Somewhere between her door and the arena, Leah met her killer,” said the RCMP. “He brutally beat her and left her dead on a snowmobile/walking trail.”

Her remains were found two days later.

“The popular, funny girl with so much potential was gone,” said the RCMP. “Not only was the community dealing with the grief of losing Leah, they had to come to terms with the brutal manner of her death and the fact that in their isolated community, where the ice road in and out was closed, the killer was still there.”

It was another blow for a family that had already endured much heartache. Leah’s father, Gilbert Duke, was slain when she was little, and she and her siblings went into foster care until an aunt and uncle in Gods Lake Narrows took them in.

In recent days, friends and relatives have been posting remembrances and pictures leading up to the RCMP’s announcement of a renewed push in the case.

For some, it has been tough.

“They say they have a suspect but shouldn’t because they have no actual evidence against him,” Eleanor Duke posted to the RCMP page. “I just want my sister to be at rest and for my family to get the justice she so truly deserves.”

[SOURCE]

Thunder Bay Police Rejects First Nation Leaders’ Call for RCMP Probe of River Deaths

APTN National News |

The acting chief of the beleaguered Thunder Bay police force rejected a call from First Nation leaders for the RCMP to step in and investigate three waterway deaths in the city.

Thunder Bay police acting Chief Sylvie Hauth said during a press conference Wednesday that she did not believe it to be “practical” or “necessary” to call in the Mounties.

The Ontario government has said only Hauth, as acting police chief, has the power to call in the RCMP.

Hauth became acting chief after the Ontario Provincial Police charged Thunder Bay police Chief J.P. Levesque with obstruction of justice and breach of trust after he allegedly disclosed confidential information about the city’s mayor Keith Hobbs.

First Nation leaders have said the local Indigenous community has no confidence in the Thunder Bay police or the OPP to investigate the deaths of Indigenous people.

Nishnawbe Aski Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, Grand Council Treaty 3 Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh and Rainy River First Nations Chief Jim Leonard last week called on the RCMP to investigate the deaths of: Tammy Keeash, 17, who was living in a group home and found dead in the Neebing-McIntyre Floodway on May 7; Josiah Begg, 14, who was found dead in the McIntyre River on May 18; and Stacy DeBungee, who was found dead in the McIntyre River on Oct. 19, 2015.

The chiefs could not be immediately reached for comment.

Hauth said the OPP completed a review of how the city police handled the DeBungee investigation on May 15. The Thunder Bay police said earlier Wednesday there were no plans to release the report.

The Thunder Bay police botched the handling of DeBungee’s death investigation, according to private investigator David Perry, a former senior Toronto homicide detective. Thunder Bay detectives shut the file on DeBungee, declaring it to be accidental, before the conclusion of an autopsy examination.

Perry discovered DeBungee’s debit card was used after his death and that his identification cards were strewn on the river bank near where he was found mixed in with the identification material of another individual who has not yet been found.

Hauth said the OPP review now also extends to the Keeash and Begg deaths.

Serious questions still remain around the deaths of three of seven First Nation youth who were the subject of a coroner’s inquest which ended in June 2016. Five of the seven youth died in Thunder Bay’s waterways and three of those deaths were found to be “undetermined” by the coroner’s jury.

Perry told APTN it’s highly possible foul play may be behind some of these river deaths.

The Thunder Bay police now says it is investigating whether Indigenous youth are being targeted.

[SOURCE]

Frustrated Families Vow to ‘Blockade’ Missing and Murdered Inquiry Hearings

Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail, right, comforts Shirley Gunner, as John Fox looks on during a news conference regarding the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls national inquiry in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Father of murdered woman says inquiry is at a ‘crisis’ point

By John Paul Tasker, CBC News Posted: May 23, 2017

Some family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are vowing to blockade meetings of the national inquiry to protest what they call a disastrous start.

“We are prepared to take blockades against this inquiry, if it goes through our communities we will be there, it doesn’t matter where,” John Fox told reporters Tuesday.

Fox said many families are “tired of the commissioners,” the people who are responsible for collecting testimony from families, and they are frustrated with the lack of familial support. Fox said calls to the 1-800 number are not returned and emails go unanswered by the bureaucrats staffing the inquiry’s office. He wants to ensure he can get on the list of speakers when the inquiry finally rolls through his town.

“What are we supposed to do? What other things can I do to get my name on there?” he asked.

Fox, the father of Cheyenne Marie Fox, a 20-year-old woman who died in Toronto in 2013, said the inquiry has unfairly placed the blame on families for cancelling scheduled meetings this summer rather than admit they were simply not prepared.

The inquiry has said it would go ahead with the first meeting in Whitehorse at the end of the month, but suspend others until the fall because many witnesses told them that they would be out on the land hunting, trapping and harvesting and would not have time to meet with commissioners. Fox said Tuesday that was nonsense.

“They took that little bit of information, somebody said it in passing, but now they paint all our families with that one big brush, but that’s not fair,” he said. “The harvesting and all of that other stuff, that’s always going to happen … we would be there.”

‘They can’t even get the race horse out of the gate.’– John Fox

Fox said Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett was able to hold pre-inquiry meetings throughout the country in a matter of months, but, nearly a year after the launch of the national inquiry, things remain largely at a standstill.

“Why can she pull off the pre-inquiry, and get all the statements in that short period of time? And this inquiry now … they don’t have an idea of what they’re going to do? All the money and expertise in front of them and they can’t even get the race horse out of the gate.”

(As of May 23, the inquiry has already spent roughly 10 per cent of its $53-million budget.)

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde also voiced his frustrations Tuesday. Bellegarde said he has invited the five MMIWG commissioners to meet with family members on three different occasions but was rejected.

“Clear communication and outreach to family members are essential to rebuild trust and ensure the national inquiry is a success,” Bellegarde said, adding the process must take a “families first” approach, based on respect for survivors and their loved ones.

Jocelyn Iahtail, who has long fought for a national inquiry, said many families have simply given up hope with the process so far because it has not respected Indigenous spirituality and language.

Jocelyn Iahtail, who has long fought for a national inquiry, said many have simply given up hope with the process so far because it has not respected Indigenous spirituality and language.

She said while Marion Buller, the chief commissioner, admitted last week some mistakes had been made, more needs to be done to regain the trust of many family members. Elders are trying to speak in their Indigenous languages but are simply not understood by record keepers, she said, and there is little respect paid to sacred instruments like the drum, fire ceremonies and tobacco.

“We cannot have our sacred stories yet again shelved like every other report has been shelved. We’ve had many family members state that it is running very much like the Indian residential school process when they were meeting with adjudicators. It is like a court process. We’ve been very consistent since the beginning that it has to be Indigenous knowledge-based.”

Iahtail said the commission has also been tight-fisted with money to help families travel to inquiry meetings, and has been reluctant to provide legal services to those in need.

Buller said Friday she understands frustration from families, but chalked up problems to poor communications.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of staff issues. It’s our fault for not communicating the tremendous work we have already accomplished.”

The commission has cycled through three directors of communications in 10 months, and has been plagued by complaints from family members about compressed timelines. The first interim report from the inquiry is due by November 2017.

[SOURCE]

Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women Inquiry Will Seek Extension, Admits To ‘Poor Communication’

Marion Buller, left, Chief Commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, along with her colleague, commissioner Michele Audette, in February 2017.

  • Staff – National Post | May 19, 2017

The chief commissioner of the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls has admitted to a “poor communication strategy” in the wake of intense criticism about the inquiry’s progress.

The commission is also planning to ask for an extension, now that only one hearing is scheduled to take place before the fall.

During a Friday afternoon press conference, Marion Buller said the commissioners are taking steps to improve communication.

The inquiry has hired a new communications officer, Bernee Bolton. Former communications director Michael Hutchinson was let go earlier this year, after only a few months.

“We take full responsibility for our poor communication strategy,” Buller said. “We fully acknowledge that and take responsibility for it.”

Buller was responding to an open letter published earlier this week, signed by more than 50 family members, indigenous leaders and advocates, claiming the inquiry is “in serious trouble.”

“We are deeply concerned with the continued lack of communication that is causing anxiety, frustration, confusion, and disappointment in this long-awaited process,” it read.

The letter raised concerns that the inquiry lacks leadership and is re-traumatizing family members of missing and murdered indigenous women.

But Buller said communication is the major issue, not leadership or staffing issues.

Some families have recently told news outlets they’re losing faith in the inquiry. But Buller said she’s been receiving calls from others who say “those people don’t speak for us.”

“I can tell you there’s still a lot of hope out there,” she told reporters.

The commission was supposed to complete its final report by November 2018.

But in a response to the open letter published Friday, Buller acknowledged that the inquiry’s original timelines “are no longer achievable.”

She wouldn’t say how long of an extension the commissioners might request.

At this point, there is only one hearing firmly scheduled, in Whitehorse at the end of the month. A team from the inquiry was in the territory this week to prepare for the week-long hearing that will begin May 29.

“The Whitehorse hearing is going ahead as planned,” Buller said Friday. “We owe that to the community.”

In the Yukon, it seems, many still have faith in the process, despite its flaws.

“I think it’s important,” said Bryan Jack, whose sister, Barbara, went missing as a teenager in Whitehorse in the 1970s. “It brings breathing room to a community that’s having a hard time.”

We are deeply concerned with the continued lack of communication that is causing anxiety, frustration, confusion, and disappointment

In many ways, the territory has been laying the groundwork for this moment for months.

After the first national roundtable on missing and murdered indigenous women was held in Ottawa in February 2015, the Yukon government and local indigenous groups decided to host their own events in Whitehorse. They organized a gathering for family members in December 2015, and a regional roundtable in February 2016 — months before the national inquiry was officially launched.

Jack was among those who shared their stories at the roundtable.

Afterward, he said, the local RCMP detachment followed up with him to see if he wanted to discuss his sister’s case any further.

“I really had a lot of respect for (the process),” he said.

Doris Anderson, president of the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council, said that regional roundtable “let the families know that they are being heard.”

Demonstrators hold pictures of missing aboriginal women at a rally on Parliament Hill .

The women’s council and several other indigenous groups have been instrumental in advocating for families and making sure they feel comfortable coming forward, even months after the roundtable.

Anderson is among those who signed the open letter criticizing the commission this week. But she’s still optimistic about the inquiry’s future.

“We were the first to begin with, so of course there’s going to be some stumbling blocks,” she said. “I think they’re working really hard to ensure that the process gets a lot smoother.”

The Yukon government declined a request for comment from the National Post. But Jeanie Dendys, minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate, wrote a letter to Buller in March inviting the commission to come to the Yukon.

“I also want to take this opportunity to request relevant, timely and transparent communication for our people,” she wrote.

For his part, Jack still isn’t sure he’ll make it to the hearing, as it’s nearly summer and he’s busy. But he said he’ll go if he can.

“Nowadays, it’s like the fire’s lit beneath the people with the authority,” he said. “And we’ve just got to get on with it.”

[SOURCE]

3 Men Arrested in Connection to Killing of Tina Fontaine’s Cousin

Jeanenne Chantel Fontaine died after being shot and being exposed to a fire on March 14. Three people have been arrested in connection to the homicide. Winnipeg Police Service Handout

Global News | May 17, 2017

Three men have been charged in connection to the death of Jeanenne Fontaine, 29, who was found shot in the head in a North End home in March.

Fontaine is the cousin of Tina Fontaine, the teenage girl whose body was found wrapped in a bag in the Red River in August 2014.

On March 14 at 9:45 a.m., police were called to a house fire 400 block of Aberdeen Avenue. Crews found Fontaine in the house and she taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries where she later died.

Fontaine was shot in the head before the fire began, police said.

Investigators also determined the fire was deliberately set.

On May 16, homicide investigators went to the Provincial remand Centre and arrested three men in connection to her death.

Christopher Mathew Brass, 34, has been charged with manslaughter and arson disregard for human life. Malcolm Miles Mitchell, 24, has been charged with second-degree murder and arson disregard for human life. Jason Michael Meilleur, 38, has been charged with manslaughter.

All three are in custody.

Brass was also arrested and charged in connection to another homicide that happened in February.

On Feb. 8, Bryer James Prysiazniuk-Settee, 24, was found shot in the area of Powers Street and Aberdeen Avenue. He was taken to hospital in critical condition and later died.

Brass has been charged with second-degree murder.

[SOURCE]

Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Women a Failure: Indigenous Group

People march during the 26th Annual Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver in February, 2016.
(Rafal Gerszak For The Globe and Mail)

The Globe and Mail | May 16, 2017

The organization that was the loudest voice in calling for a public investigation of why so many Indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing in Canada says the inquiry launched to determine the societal causes of the tragedy has, so far, been a dismal failure.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) will issue its second report card on the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women on Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained in advance by The Globe and Mail. The discouraging appraisal follows repeated complaints by advocates, family members and others that the process announced in late 2015 is falling far behind its intended pace and that communications to those who are most anxious for its findings have been insufficient or non-existent.

“This many months into the inquiry, we cannot afford to be nice any more,” said Francyne Joe, NWAC’s interim president. “Families are upset, they’re getting discouraged and we need to see action on the part of the commissioners to ensure that this inquiry is going to be family-first and is going to be respectful to the missing and murdered women.”

On Monday, families of victims, Indigenous leaders and advocates for those who have lost loved ones wrote an open letter to chief commissioner Marion Buller saying they fear the $53.8-million inquiry is in “serious trouble” for many reasons but, primarily “a lack of communication that is causing frustration, confusion and disappointment in this long-awaited process.”

The commission did not respond to that letter by deadline on Monday. But the report from NWAC echoes its complaints.

On 10 out of 15 measures – from structure to communications to transparency to respect for the families of victims – the inquiry was given failing marks. In three areas it received cautions. In two others, NWAC said there was not enough information to make an assessment. It was given no passing grades.

The report says, among other things, that the inquiry has failed to announce its timelines or issue regular progress reports and has left families and the media in the dark. The commissioners, it says, have created a sense of “desperation and urgency” by not making themselves available and not communicating regularly, and the money spent to date has not been best used to allow families to engage in the process.

NWAC charges that the inquiry is not being set up to take into account the trauma suffered by victims’ loved ones, and that it has failed in its mandates to promote reconciliation, contribute to public awareness and to allow families and community members to share their experiences and views.

Communication has been the biggest failure, Ms. Joe said. The media, not the commission, she said, informed NWAC last week that the lone opportunity for families to testify this spring will be at the end of May, and the remainder of family testimony, which had been expected to continue throughout the summer, would not be scheduled until fall.

“My biggest fear at this point is that this is not going to be a family-first inquiry, that families are going to come third,” Ms. Joe said. “There’s a lot of discussions around the technical side of things, there’s a lot of discussions around the legal side of things. But there’s not enough discussions as to how families are going to be part of this. And they have been the ones fighting for this inquiry for decades.”

A spokeswoman for Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said on Monday that, despite the concerns being raised, the minister believes enough time and resources have been made available for the inquiry to do its work.

A 2014 report by the RCMP said the force had identified nearly 1,200 Indigenous women and girls who disappeared or were slain in recent decades, and some critics suggest the Mounties’ list is far from complete. Families and advocates want to know why Indigenous women and girls are victims of violence far more often than other women in Canada.

The letter from families and others, which was posted on Monday to the website of Indigenous artist Christi Belcourt – a long-time advocate for the environment and Indigenous people – says people across the country are loudly raising alarms.

The letter’s signatories, which include more than 50 people and organizations, say it is clear that the approach of the inquiry must be “fundamentally shifted” and asks the chief commissioner to respond by May 22.

Ms. Belcourt said in a telephone interview that the letter came together in about a week and it was easy to obtain signatures. In fact, she said, more families and Indigenous leaders stepped forward in support of it on Monday after it was made public.

People wanted to give the inquiry time to work, Ms. Belcourt said, “but it’s simply got to the point where it’s become very obvious that it’s unravelling, and that it’s not functioning all.”

[SOURCE]

Families Unsure Whether To Take Part In Missing Indigenous Women Inquiry

Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. (CBC)

Manitoba coalition for MMIW families hosted meeting to talk over inquiry in Winnipeg on Saturday

  • Staff | The Canadian Press Posted: May 14, 2017

Some families of missing and murdered Indigenous women remain uncertain if they should take part in a national inquiry aimed at examining the violence in their communities, according to a group representing them.

Representatives of the Manitoba Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Coalition said a meeting Saturday to talk over the responses from inquiry staff to major questions have failed to produce clear answers.

The group has raised concerns about the inquiry process and how traumatized families and survivors will be treated.

Coalition co-chair Hilda Anderson-Pyrz said these people need to be confident that it will be worthwhile for them to get involved.

“They need to give reassurance their voices will be heard in a good way and a meaningful way,” Anderson-Pyrz said following the four-hour-long, closed-door meeting in Winnipeg’s North End.

A major worry among the families is that the inquiry, announced by the federal government in December 2015, will be conducted within a framework that doesn’t account for Indigenous ways and traditions, said Sandra DeLaronde, also a coalition co-chair.

“If we let the inquiry go on its own, it will completely be in a legal tradition,” said DeLaronde. “It’s the only chance we’re going to get, and if it’s not done right, we’ve lost the opportunity.”

‘We’re still in the dark’

More than 30 people attended the meeting, according to attendee Sue Caribou, who has seen several of her relatives murdered and others go missing.

“We’re still in the dark,” Caribou said.

The coalition sent 43 questions to inquiry officials after an earlier meeting with the inquiry’s commissioners in Winnipeg.

That meeting came a few weeks after the inquiry postponed a series of regional advisory meetings supposed to help determine what issues should be covered when formal hearings get underway.

A copy of the questions and responses was supplied to The Canadian Press by people who attended Saturday’s meeting.

One question was whether the inquiry’s five commissioners and staff will receive “trauma informed” training. No one from the inquiry’s “health team” at the May 4 meeting assisted a family member who broke down and left, the coalition said in the document.

The coalition also asked how the inquiry will reach families and survivors in Canada’s isolated or northern communities and those who don’t use social media.

Inquiry officials responded that commissioners, directors and most of the staff will be trained in June 2017. They responded the inquiry is still working on an outreach strategy which may include “posters, podcasts on local radio stations.”

The inquiry is to complete its work and wrap up by December 2018, and the document says it is planning to do its work within the existing timeframe and budget.

Sheila North Wilson, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), said the inquiry might need longer than its current timeline to do the job in a meaningful way. (CBC)

Sheila North Wilson, the grand chief of an organization advocating for northern Manitoba First Nations, said it may not be enough time to get the job done in a meaningful way.

“The biggest need, immediately, that I see is we need to provide better resources and opportunities for our women and girls and families because ultimately that’s what leads to what happens,” she said.

“Women become vulnerable, people that take advantage of vulnerability have their way and then become victims of this issue.”

[SOURCE]

Sagkeeng First Nation Mourns Slain Teen at Vigil Attended by Hundreds

Family, friends and supporters met at Sagkeeng’s powwow grounds on Thursday as part of a vigil for Serena McKay. (CBC)

Serena McKay was found dead on Sunday; 2 teens have since been charged with her murder

CBC News Posted: Apr 27, 2017

Hundreds of people from Sagkeeng First Nation came together Thursday night in honour of a 19-year-old woman from the community who was killed over the weekend.

Serena McKay was found dead on Sunday in the community of roughly 4,000 people, 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

The body of Serena McKay, 19, was found Sunday evening in Sagkeeng First Nation. Two teenage girls have been arrested in connection with her death. (Del Daniels/Facebook)

On Thursday, family, friends and supporters met at Sagkeeng’s powwow grounds to honour her memory and begin community healing.

“I didn’t really know her. It’s just really devastating, because I have a sister. When I heard about that, it kind of touched me,” said Elvis Atkinson, 20.

“The community needs to open up their eyes on the younger generation … how these young generation drink, drugs in the community.”

McKay had recently moved to Sagkeeng and was set to graduate high school in June. Two girls from her school, aged 16 and 17, have been charged with second-degree murder in connection with her death.

People at Thursday’s vigil for Serena McKay say the community needs to begin healing. (CBC)

Sagkeeng Anicinabe High School principal Claude Guimond said the environment at the vigil was moving and emotional. Indigenous leaders including Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak and Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Kevin Hart were in attendance, he added.

“There’s nothing so devastating as losing a young life like that, so senselessly taken, before she even started to live, really, you know? Never got that chance,” he said. “That’s one of the most devastating things to endure.”

Elvis Atkinson, 20, lives on Sagkeeng First Nation. He didn’t know Serena McKay personally, but said her death moved him. (CBC)

Guimond said ceremony and tradition play a powerful role in community healing.

“Of course, the drumming, you know, that’s the heartbeat of our nation,” he said. “That’s the heartbeat of Anishinaabe people, is the drum, and it’s so strong.”

Claude Guimond, principal of Sagkeeng Anicinabe High School, said the Thursday evening vigil was moving and emotional. (CBC)

[SOURCE]

Video Linked to Serena McKay Homicide Needs to Be Pulled Off Facebook, Chief Says

The body of Serena McKay, 19, was found Sunday evening in Sagkeeng First Nation. Two teenage girls have been arrested and charged in her death. (Del Daniels/Facebook)

2 teenage girls from Sagkeeng First Nation charged with 2nd-degree murder in McKay’s death

CBC News Posted: Apr 26, 2017

The chief of Manitoba’s Sagkeeng First Nation wants the video of a vicious attack on a young woman — some say the same woman later found dead in the community — pulled off Facebook.

The body of the woman believed to be the victim in the video, 19-year-old Serena McKay, was found Sunday night near a home in the community 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

The video is disturbing and its continued existence is extremely difficult for McKay’s mom, who hasn’t even seen her daughter’s body yet, said Chief Derrick Henderson.

Serena McKay

“I know the mom personally. It’s very hard for her,” he said, adding he hopes she will see her daughter on Wednesday and then funeral arrangements will be made.

“Today’s going to be a tough day for her,” he said.

Two teenage girls from the community have been charged with second-degree murder in McKay’s death. The girls, aged 16 and 17, cannot be identified due to provisions in the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Both are being held in custody.

​All three went to Sagkeeng Anicinabe High School, but McKay lived in the neighbouring community of Powerview-Pine Falls.

The video, which has been shared many times on Facebook, shows a girl being beaten but doesn’t clearly identify anyone.

“I’ve asked Facebook and I’ve asked the major crimes unit to get that video removed, whatever it takes,” Henderson said. “I mean that’s part of the investigation again, right? It’s evidence.

“It’s pretty hard once it gets out there, I guess. But there must be some mechanism there available.”

RCMP are aware of the video, but a spokesperson would not confirm whether the person being attacked is McKay. Sgt. Paul Manaigre said officers are reviewing the video to determine if it is relevant to their investigation.

He also said the video is being passed around via Facebook Messenger, which means it cannot be controlled by Facebook but only by those sharing it.

Henderson hopes the homicide sparks a conversation that starts to bring changes to Sagkeeng.

​”It’s devastating for everybody. Even me, as a leader, it’s so hard to stomach, but we have to continue and move forward and try to make it a better place for our people,” he said.

“I’m not sure what the circumstances are of what happened but I know a lot of it can be related to lots of factors like addictions. I know that’s an issue in my community, it’s an issue everywhere, and we need to deal with those things.”

Henderson also wants to see parents held more accountable for keeping an eye on their children.

“They need to be more responsible towards their children: ‘Where are you? Why are you not home?’ Things like that,” he said. “Where’s the moms and dads?”

Henderson plans to speak about those issues at a vigil for McKay planned for Thursday at 6 p.m. in Sagkeeng.

McKay was last seen by a family friend on Saturday evening and was reported missing to Powerview RCMP on Sunday around 6 p.m.

As officers searched the area, they received a call two hours later — around 8 p.m. — that her body had been found.

[SOURCE]