Rally organizer wants people who saw Serena McKay beating video to submit victim impact statements

The organizers behind a small rally demanding justice for murdered Indigenous woman Serena McKay say they want people who watched the video of her being viciously assaulted to submit victim impact statements to the court.

About 20 people gathered Saturday to demand justice

Gabriele Lavery organized a Saturday rally demanding justice for Serena McKay. (Elisha Dacey/CBC)

The organizers behind a small rally demanding justice for murdered Indigenous woman Serena McKay say they want people who watched the video of her being viciously assaulted to submit victim impact statements to the court.

Gabriele Lavery, 17, says she organized the Saturday rally in Winnipeg partly in hope of spreading awareness around the new rules that allow people to submit a statement to the court, even if they didn't know the victim.

"I know a lot of people were impacted by the video … when I saw it, it did make me depressed. I know a lot of other people were affected by it," said Lavery, who did not personally know McKay.

A form explaining how to submit a statement was handed out at the rally, she said.

"She was still a person. She had people who loved her and cared about her, and she deserves someone to stand up for her."

Rally attendees marched from the legislative grounds to the Law Courts calling for justice for Serena McKay Saturday. (Elisha Dacey/CBC)

About 20 hardy souls gathered Saturday afternoon in front of the Manitoba Legislative Building and braved the winter winds while they walked, demanding a harsher sentence for the two teenage girls who have both pleaded guilty in McKay's death.

McKay was a Grade 12 student about to graduate from Sagkeeng Anicinabe High School in Sagkeeng First Nation, 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, when her body was found on April 23, 2017.

Two girls, aged 16 and 17, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and second-degree murder, respectively, in relation to McKay's death after video surfaced online showing her being beaten. She was left outside after the beating and died.

Serena McKay, 19, was found dead in Sagkeeng First Nation last April. Two teenage girls have pleaded guilty to charges in connection with her death. (Submitted by family)

The 17-year-old is being sentenced as a youth, but the Crown is seeking an adult sentence for the 16-year-old girl. The 17-year-old faces a maximum of seven years in prison.

Changes allowing anyone who was affected by a crime, even if they don't have a direct connection to the victim, to submit a victim impact statement to the court came into effect in 2015. Earlier this year, 96 people submitted victim impact statement before the sentencing hearing for Cooper Nemeth's killer. 

"We needed to do something," said Courtny Thomas, who helped organize the rally Saturday. "[The two teens] both had equal parts in it ... they should both be in there for a long time."

Demanding justice

Serena McKay's mother, Delores Daniels, speaks to media on the steps of the Manitoba Legislative Building Saturday. (Elisha Dacey/CBC)

Mckay's mother, Delores Daniels, attended the rally and led the walkers on a chant demanding justice for her daughter.

"She was 19 years old," said Daniels. "She was my only daughter. Her life was taken way too soon.

"We don't agree that the pleas were already made," she added. "They may be facing less than seven years. We're demanding justice for Serena."

Knowing people, including strangers, are fighting for her daughter is heartwarming, said Daniels. "Sometimes I feel alone in the way that I'm feeling and it's inspiring that there's a lot of people that are supporting her and want the same that we do.

"We are putting out a call to those that have seen that video, to submit a statement to the courts."

They are hopeful the statements will factor into the sentencing for her daughter's killers, said Daniels.

The two teens face sentencing in April and June of this year.

McKay wanted to study law and loved to travel, said Daniels.

"[Serena] was a beautiful girl, she was friendly, she got along with everybody, she had a lot of friends. She was smart, yes, and she was compassionate towards people."

About the Author

Elisha Dacey

Journalist

Elisha Dacey is a journalist with CBC Manitoba. She is the former managing editor of Metro Winnipeg and her work has been seen in newspapers from coast to coast. Reach her at elisha.dacey@cbc.ca.