Protesters took part in two rallies in Winnipeg on Monday to demand harsher sentences for killers, in light of the sentencing last week of convicted killer Shawn Lamb.
The protests, including one that drew more than two dozen people to the Law Courts building during the day, were sparked by Lamb's sentencing on two counts of manslaughter on Thursday.
- Police paid killer Shawn Lamb $1,500 for information
- Shawn Lamb sentenced to 20 years for two slayings
Despite confessing to killing Carolyn Sinclair, 25, and Lorna Blacksmith, 18, Lamb could be eligible for parole in nine years.
The confession was part of a plea deal between the defence and Crown. In return for his plea, Lamb had the charges against him reduced to manslaughter from second-degree murder.
A Winnipeg woman said her daughter was pressured to drop sex assault charges against Lamb as part of the deal. She said two other young women were also asked to drop their charges and complied.
Lamb was then sentenced to 20 years behind bars — 10 years for each killing. But he was also given credit for the time he has already been in custody, dropping his sentence to 18 more years behind bars.
That leaves him eligible for parole in half that time.
Sinclair's body was found in March 2012 near a dumpster behind an apartment complex in the 700 block of Notre Dame Avenue, between Toronto and Victor streets, in Winnipeg's West End.
Court was told Thursday she and Lamb had been smoking crack cocaine in Lamb's bathroom when he hit her in the head with an axe handle three or four times. He then choked her with his hands.
Lamb smoked the rest of the crack and left Sinclair's body in the bathroom for several days before placing her in a bag and dumping her, court was told.
Blacksmith's body was found in the backyard of a home in the 700 block of Simcoe Street, also in the city's West End, in June 2012.
Court was told Thursday that she was strangled with a TV cord. Lamb then went to buy drugs and dumped her body later that day.
Murder charge still before the courts
A charge of second-degree murder against Lamb is still before the courts in regards to the death of Tanya Jane Nepinak, 31.
Nepinak's body has never been found, but police have declared her as a homicide victim and charged Lamb, who has denied killing her.
Nepinak's friends and family members took part in Monday's second protest, which started at Papa Guido's restaurant at Ellice Avenue and Home Street and moved to the Manitoba legislature.
During the first protest, people held hands and beat drums, demanding lengthier sentences for killers like Lamb and harshly criticizing plea deals.
"They had a slam dunk confession, and they dropped the ball, and now, a serial killer is eligible [for parole] in nine [years and] out in 20. That is not justice at all," said protester Michael Kannon.
Victims rights activist Gladys Radek added her voice to the chorus on Monday, travelling from British Columbia to attend the rally.
Radek's niece disappeared on British Columbia's Highway of Tears in 2005 and hasn't been seen since. Radek founded the group Tears for Justice after her disappearance.
"Systemic racism is alive and well in Canada when you can hand down a sentence like this to serial killers that are killing aboriginal women,” she said. “This affects all of us. It's more than just about the families now; it's about every Canadian.”
But Philippe Richer, a defence lawyer who practises in Winnipeg, said plea deals are part of the justice system, especially when evidence is lacking.
Richer said the only evidence linking Lamb to the killings was a confession and that confession could have been compromised by a police payout.
"Had the evidence been deemed non-admissable and Mr. Lamb been acquitted, then they would also feel justice had not been served," he said.