Tag Archives: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

Principal After Violent Death: Drugs and Gangs ‘Killing Our Youth’

Views of Sagkeeng First Nation which sits on the north and south shore of the Winnipeg River near Pine Falls Manitoba. Dec 19, 2014 Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press

  • Staff | CP – Apr 26, 2017

SAGKEENG FIRST NATION, Man. — The killing of a 19-year-old high school student and a graphic video believed to be linked to the death has shocked a small Manitoba First Nation that has seen more than its share of tragedy.

RCMP said Wednesday they were reviewing the video circulating on social media to determine whether it was indeed connected to the death on the Sagkeeng reserve, 120 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

They also said they had arrested two girls, 16 and 17 years old, on charges of second-degree murder.

RCMP would not identify the victim, but community members said she was Serena McKay. The two accused cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

All three were students at the Sagkeeng Anicinabe High School, said principal Claude Guimond.

“We’re not a very big school. We only have about 220 students here … and all three of the students in the video, I know them personally and it was hard to take,” Guimond said.

“Tuesday we had a healing ceremony for our students and staff … and one of the recurring things that came out was how social media — Facebook, you know — made things even worse by people reposting the video.”

The video shows a young woman lying bloodied on the ground and barely conscious as she is repeatedly kicked and punched in the head. It appears to have been taken on a cellphone. Female and male voices can be heard.

McKay is the woman being attacked in the video, Guimond said.

RCMP would only say the victim’s body was found Sunday night, near a home in Sagkeeng, about two hours after she was reported missing to the detachment in the neighbouring town of Powerview.

Counsellors were brought in this week to help students and staff at the school deal with the death. A vigil was planned for the community on Thursday evening.

Sagkeeng, a community of some 3,000 residents, was also the home of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, whose body was pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg in 2014. She had left Sagkeeng just two months earlier. Her father, Eugene Fontaine, was beaten to death on the reserve three years earlier.

The small community has seen several other cases of missing and murdered indigenous women, including 17-year-old Fonessa Bruyere, who was killed in Winnipeg in 2007.

Guimond said gang activity and drug use have encroached on the community from the city.

“Over the last 10 years, what I’ve noticed is that more and more of the gang influence is filtering on to the reserve from Winnipeg,” Guimond said.

“With gang activity comes drug trafficking and stuff like that, and that’s what’s killing our youth here.”

Sagkeeng Chief Derrick Henderson said everyone is trying to come to terms with the latest death.

“It’s been tragic and it’s pretty sombre right now.”

By Steve Lambert in Winnipeg

The Canadian Press


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.


Ottawa Releases Pre-Inquiry Report On MMIW



The federal government has quietly released a series of recommendations from its pre-inquiry consultations with friends and family of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The report was release late Friday with no press release.

According to the report, there were 17 meetings involving 2,000 friends and family across the country, with Indigenous organizations, provincial and territorial leaders, Indigenous leaders, scholars and legal experts.

The government also accepted comments via an online forum and survey.

“The face-to-face meetings provided the government a chance to hear directly from survivors, and families and loved ones of murdered or missing women and girls,” according to the report posted online. “Participants were provided with cultural, spiritual and religious support. Elders were also on hand to provide ceremony and counsel. Also, health support workers were available to provide additional cultural and emotional support.”

According to the report, the government heard:

The leadership should represent Indigenous communities and regions. It should also have a timetable that is sensitive to the needs of survivors, families and loved ones. Efforts must be made to avoid a long, drawn-out and legal process.

The inquiry should include as many individuals and organizations as possible including survivors, families and loved ones, national Indigenous organizations, front-line workers, and Indigenous community leaders and organizations.

It should also respect different points of view.

The inquiry should take a broad approach to its analysis of the issues. It should look at the economic, cultural, political and social causes of violence against women, girls and trans and two-spirit people.

It should also look at the causes of unequal and unjust treatment of Indigenous women, girls and trans and two-spirit people and recommend solutions to the causes of violence.

The inquiry should provide a variety of cultural, spiritual and religious supports and ceremonies. The ceremonies should reflect the diversity of all participants and regions and be supported by elders.

As well, it will be critical to have professional mental health counselling and community-based health supports. Professional and culturally-sensitive counselling will be needed if the inquiry is to be effective and avoid causing further trauma.

What isn’t clear is when the inquiry will start. When it was announced, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said she wanted it officially announced before the House of Commons recessed for the summer.

That is towards the end of June.


RCMP Working To Rebuild Relationship With Indigenous Peoples

OTTAWA—The RCMP has been quietly meeting with national aboriginal organizations to start building a better relationship with indigenous peoples following a long history of mutual distrust.

“I think we have seen that, historically, the relationship with policing in Canada for aboriginal peoples has been tenuous at best,” said Dawn Lavell Harvard, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC).

“It’s important to sit down and say, ‘Enough pointing fingers. What are we going to do to make this better? What are we going to do to improve this relationship?’ Because quite frankly, indigenous people aren’t going away and neither is the RCMP. We need to find a way to make this relationship work in a positive way,” she said.

A watershed moment came late last year when RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson responded to a question from the floor of an Assembly of First Nations (AFN) gathering in Gatineau, Que., about racism under his watch.

“I hear what you say. I understand there are racists in my police force. I don’t want them to be in my police force,” Paulson said Dec. 9.

The Star has learned that AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde, who told the top Mountie that day his presence at the meeting was “starting to earn that trust and respect,” has since followed up with a one-on-one meeting with Paulson to discuss the way forward.

“The discussion focused on the need for concrete action to end racism within the police force,” the AFN said of the Jan. 15 meeting in an emailed statement, as Bellegarde was unavailable for an interview Thursday.

The AFN said the meeting touched on specific recommendations, such as: cultural competency training for officers; better operations, including improved investigations and communication, when it comes to cases involving First Nations people and their families; and protocols for community engagement.

Another recommendation was for “accurate and reliable” data collection systems and databases, an area highlighted by a recent Star investigation into missing and murdered indigenous women, which raised questions about the solve rates of homicides and relationships between perpetrators and victims.

The efforts did not begin and end with that one-on-one meeting.

The Star has also learned the Mounties formed a working group devoted to empowering indigenous women and preventing violence that includes representatives from six aboriginal organizations, which will meet for the second time Feb. 17 at RCMP national headquarters in Ottawa.

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Harold Pfleiderer said the meeting is part of long-lasting and ongoing “solid relationship” with the national aboriginal organizations, which the Mounties meet with quarterly.

“These meetings focus on ways the RCMP can partner with the (national aboriginal organizations) in the areas of crime prevention and reducing the victimization of indigenous peoples,” Pfleiderer wrote in a statement.

“It’s about working together and coming up with some change through a positive working relationship,” said Chief Dwight Dorey of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which represents non-status Indians and others living off-reserve.

Lavell Harvard said Paulson took a “courageous first step” by acknowledging racism was part of the problem and sees the meetings — both the working group and other informal conversations — as a way to start tackling the monumental challenge of missing and murdered indigenous women now, rather than after the promised national inquiry makes its recommendations.

She also said she has already seen some changes, in that when families of missing or murdered indigenous women call her organization seeking help in dealing with the RCMP, she can pass along the concerns to an actual name and number.

“In the past we wouldn’t have even known who to call. The fact that we have started having some conversations and having that partnership gives us somebody that we can call, somebody that we can pass that along to and say, ‘How can we help here?’ Rather than us just saying there is nothing we can do, because all that does is make the situation worse,” she said.

Lavell Harvard said she would like to see the RCMP replicate a toolkit NWAC hands out to families of missing and murdered indigenous women — featuring tips on how to navigate the process, including how to file a missing persons report, ask questions, take notes, spread the word and advocate — so detectives can provide it to them directly.

“We need our families to be able to feel that they can go to the police for support when they need to,” she said.

Clément Chartier, president of the Métis National Council, also agreed the relationship needs work, but shared his personal feeling of disillusionment following an earlier meeting with the RCMP on missing and murdered indigenous women.

In 1961, Chartier was 15 years old and at residential school in The Pas, Man., when his mother, Rosa Chartier, was beaten to death in his hometown of Buffalo Narrows, Sask.

He said two people were later acquitted and he has always felt a sense of injustice about a crime he believes would have been handled differently if his mother had been a white woman.

Chartier said he “warmed up to the RCMP” at the meeting and followed up, saying he would be interested in pursuing what happened to his mother, but after being referred to a couple of different people all he was told was to get the transcripts from the trial and read them for himself.

“It kind of personally soured me a bit in terms of this whole process,” said Chartier, whose schedule will not allow him to attend the Feb. 17 meeting and he did not feel inclined to change it.

“I didn’t have a burning desire to make myself available to sit there and listen to them,” said Chartier, who plans to attend the families gathering ahead of the second national roundtable on missing and murdered indigenous women in Winnipeg at the end of the month.


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Man Pleads Guilty In Attack On Indigenous Teen Who Became Advocate

Justin Hudson

Justin Hudson

The Globe and Mail, Nov 30, 2015

A 21-year-old man has pleaded guilty to last year’s attack on a Winnipeg teen, admitting his role in the nearly fatal assault that turned the young woman into a voice for Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women.

In provincial court in the Manitoba capital on Monday, Justin Hudson of Poplar River First Nation pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated sexual assault in relation to the Nov. 8, 2014, attack on the young woman and a separate assault hours later on a second indigenous woman. He had been charged with attempted murder, aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon.

The young woman’s name is protected by a publication ban ordered by the court on Monday, as is the second victim’s.

The young woman and her family were not present for the plea, but the second victim, a 24-year-old, was there. She declined to comment before the proceedings – the first she has attended since Mr. Hudson was charged.

Mr. Hudson, who appeared in court with chin-length brown hair and a goatee and wearing a white T-shirt, seemed to make eye contact with the 24-year-old woman. He answered “yeah” when asked if he was pleading guilty to the two counts. He also said “no one forced” him to admit his crimes. As he left the small courtroom, he nodded to his brother and aunt who were there to support him.

An 18-year-old co-accused who cannot be named because he was a minor at the time of the offence, is in custody. No plea has been entered in his case. Prosecutor Jennifer Comack said in an e-mail a direct indictment has been preferred, meaning that if the case goes to trial, there will be no preliminary inquiry. She also confirmed the Crown will seek an adult sentence if he is convicted.

The young woman, now 17, was attacked on a footpath under a Winnipeg bridge and left for dead. Just days later, with her well-being hanging in the balance, her family issued a clarion call for Canada to do more to protect its indigenous children and youth. The young woman is today an advocate for a national inquiry into this country’s more than 1,100 missing and murdered indigenous women – a probe the Liberal government has said it will launch by the summer.

The case also provoked a conversation about identifying victims of sexual assault after police took the rare, controversial step of releasing the young woman’s name, with her family’s permission, in the hopes of spurring investigative leads. Police have said the move contributed to the swift arrests.

Coming one year after the gruesome attack, Monday’s proceedings laid bare the fullest account yet of a set of crimes that captured the nation’s attention. The evidence included surveillance footage, DNA, witness accounts and Mr. Hudson’s own admissions.

The court heard that Mr. Hudson and his co-accused set out from the Hudson family home around 7 p.m. on Nov. 7 of last year to celebrate the teen’s 17th birthday. The teen and Mr. Hudson, who said he drank about five or six beers before going out, planned to break into cars using tools they carried in a backpack, Crown attorney Debbie Buors said, reading aloud the agreed statement of facts. However, they found the young woman in the downtown area, lured her away from her friends and led her to a footpath under a bridge near the Assiniboine River around 12:30 a.m. on Nov. 8, 2014.

The court heard they had initially planned to rob her, but decided to sexually assault her as well. The teen and Mr. Hudson, who was said to have no recollection of some of the details but did not dispute them, hit and stomped on the young woman, who fought back until she passed out, the court heard. While she was unconscious, the two accused took turns sexually assaulting her.

She came to, but was knocked out again, the Crown said. The young woman ended up in the frigid river waters and crawled out after drifting about 100 metres. Mr. Hudson and the teen then assaulted her again, this time with a hammer, the court heard. She was found, half naked and nearly dead, by a passerby around 7 a.m. that day.

The Crown said Mr. Hudson and the teen encountered their second victim in the Portage Avenue area around 2:30 a.m. The woman was hit in the head twice with a bat and forced to remove her clothes. She was sexually assaulted in an alleyway by both men, sometimes simultaneously, the court heard. At one point, the Crown recounted that one of the men said, “I like this one, let’s keep her for a while.”

Mr. Hudson and the teen eventually told the woman she could go. She made her way to her brother’s home and called police, who arrived and collected DNA. Police also collected DNA and the hammer from the river path where the first victim was assaulted, the court heard.

Monday’s plea was months in the making. In the summer, Mr. Hudson’s legal-aid lawyer told a judge that there had been “substantial movement towards a resolution” on the case. “I can tell the court … it’s going to be a guilty plea,” Amanda Sansregret said on July 27, according to official court audio accessed by The Globe and Mail. She also said it “took a long time for all the DNA and all the forensics to come in” but that “we’ve been working toward a resolution since day one.”

The court heard details on Monday related to the hours after the attack, including that the teen arrived back at the Hudson home wearing different shoes – white ones he had stolen from the young woman, it turned out – with blood on them. The court heard he removed the laces and cleaned them after Mr. Hudson’s mother confronted him about the blood stains.

The pair told relatives at the home they had “stomped a guy,” but when pressed, Mr. Hudson warned his mother to be quiet or he would do to her what he did to a woman the night prior, the court heard.

This led his sister to call the police. Mr. Hudson fled but was arrested on Nov. 11 around 4 p.m. at his aunt’s home. He contacted legal counsel and was interviewed by the Winnipeg Police Service’s homicide unit. “After some time and after not being forthright, Hudson admitted his involvement” in the two attacks and also implicated the co-accused, the Crown said. An hour later, the teen was arrested at his cousin’s home. “[He] did not make any admissions, but did state he was sorry and felt guilty several times,” the Crown said. “He also said he would agree with whatever Justin Hudson said.”

A date has not yet been set for the sentencing of Mr. Hudson, who will be the subject of a Gladue report – a pre-sentencing document that allows the courts to consider an aboriginal defendant’s background and the impact of the historical mistreatment of indigenous peoples.