Justice minister says he lacks the power to call an investigation into First Nations woman’s death

Thursday, April 13th, 2023 11:53am


Image Caption

Justice Minister David Lametti (left) and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller


“No one should have to experience the grief and pain that Linda’s loved ones are facing right now. My heart is with them during this incredibly difficult time.” — Justice Minister David Lametti
By Shari Narine
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The family of Linda Mary Beardy is calling on Canada to appoint an independent investigator to examine the details of her death.

However, says Justice Minister David Lametti, he can’t do that.

“As Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, I do not have the authority to appoint a coroner’s inquest into a death. This power lies with the province of Manitoba, which is responsible for the administration of justice,” said Lametti in an email statement to Windspeaker.com Thursday.

The family issued a statement on April 6 calling “on Canada to immediately appoint an independent investigator, to thoroughly investigate the untimely death of our sister under suspicious circumstances.”

Staff at the south Winnipeg Brady Road landfill discovered the remains of Beardy, a 33-year-old woman, on April 3. Beardy, the mother of four and youngest of five sisters, is a member of Lake St. Martin First Nation.

On April 6, the Winnipeg Police Service publicly delivered details of what led to Beardy’s death and concluded that no foul play had been involved.

Beardy’s family say they did not give the police permission to release those details.

According to the police, video surveillance observed Beardy climbing into a dumpster but does not indicate she left the dumpster. A few hours later, a commercial collection truck picked up the bin, emptied its contents into the truck and drove away. The truck emptied its contents into the Brady Road landfill site.

In a statement, the family said they felt “intimidated” by the police and called the police’s actions “dismissive.” They said the investigation needed to be “more fulsome” and that “unresolved questions” remained.

Lake St. Martin First Nation Chief Chris Traverse has added his voice to the condemnation of the work undertaken by the Winnipeg Police Service.

In a statement, Traverse said the police had tips they were neither acting on nor sharing.

“I think they are trying to avoid a proper investigation,” he said.

“I know the family is looking for answers. There are probably a variety of tragic reasons that resulted in Ms. Beardy’s death. I think people need answers and those families need answers,” said Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller in an interview with Windspeaker.com Wednesday.

“As my colleague Minister Miller has said, it is critically important that we work together, with First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities, and with all orders of government, to put an end to the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG),” said Lametti.

“No one should have to experience the grief and pain that Linda’s loved ones are facing right now. My heart is with them during this incredibly difficult time,” he added.

Traverse said Beardy had been evacuated to Winnipeg in 2011 as part of the “forced displacement” of hundreds of residents when Lake St. Martin First Nation flooded.

The flooding was the result of a decision by the Manitoba government to divert water into Lake Manitoba.

Successful litigation in 2022 eventually saw $90 million awarded to Lake St. Martin and three other First Nations affected by the flooding. Rebuilding has been ongoing but more than 1,000 people still remain displaced.

Beardy’s death is just one more among MMIWG, said Traverse.

From March 15 to early May 2022, four Indigenous women were murdered in Winnipeg, their bodies disposed of in landfill sites in and near the city.

Jeremy Skibicki, a Winnipeg man, has been charged with all four murders.

The partial remains of Rebecca Contois, 24, of O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation, were also found mid-May at the Brady landfill.

Two women from Long Plain First Nation, residing in Winnipeg, were believed to have been killed in early May. The remains of Morgan Beatrice Harris, 39, and Marcades Myran, 26, are believed to be in the Prairie Green landfill site north of Winnipeg. A feasibility study is presently being conducted to determine whether a search should be undertaken for their remains.

Police believe the first victim, a woman given the name of Buffalo Woman, was killed on or about March 15, 2022.

DNA links Skibicki to the four murders, according to the police.

Traverse said that due to “racism and misogyny,” shelters are hunting grounds for predators. Easy access to landfill sites combined with the reluctance from police and government to search them “perpetuates the cycle.”

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Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.