A young woman serving a sentence for second-degree murder was denied clemency so she could return to her Aboriginal community and begin the admissions process at the University of Manitoba. The 20-year-old woman cannot be identified because she was a minor at the time of Serena McKay’s death in April of 2017.
McKay, a 19-year-old high school student, was beaten and left to die outside by two classmates at Sagkeeng First Nation. Later, a violent video of the attack was shared on social media. At the trial of the accused girl, a pathologist testified that McKay likely died of hypothermia and was unable to seek shelter from the cold due to his injuries and high alcohol content.
In June of 2018, the woman was sentenced to 40 months of preventive detention, followed by an additional 23.5 months of conditional surveillance. Serena McKay’s mother embraced a family member outside of court during the murder-convicted 20-year-onal 23.5 months of conditional surveillance. Serena McKay’s mother embraced a family member outside of court during the murder-convicted 20-year-old’s sentencing hearing. (Jill Kubler/CBC)
The original sentencing judge, Provincial Court Judge Rocky Pollack, denied her request for early release. Pollack said in a written decision from August 26 that the woman “still doesn’t understand how serious her actions are.”
He said that she cut ties with the father of her 4-year-old son and a friend who played a small part in the events that led to McKay’s death to get rid of bad influences in her life.
The woman, who is also involved in an ongoing programme to assist Aboriginal offenders and completed high school in prison, has been described as a role model for youth centres in Manitoba and now works at the laundromat at the Women’s Correctional Centre. Headingley is a facility for adults. The transfer occurred in November.
The 20-year-old’s request for early release said that she would have strong family support from her mother and grandmother, who had been to court with her throughout the trial to show their support.
Pollack stated that their behaviour was not entirely commendable.
She forged the signature of a youth centre employee to mail a letter, discovered she was getting tattoos, joined a group that refused to obey lockdown orders, and was fined for not taking her medication.
The probation officer’s progress report indicated that the woman remained susceptible to being misled by others, while the traditional knowledge custodian at the Women’s Correctional Center concluded that she was “struggling with self-acceptance” and “giving up her values.” utilised to gain the approval of others.
Pollack also referenced the woman’s handwritten “Story of My Life” document. In it, she described the evening of the murder:
“A few drinks led to a weekend of excessive drinking.” It was such a shock to find myself involved in a murder on Monday morning. I don’t recall much about that weekend, but when a friend showed me the video, it was gruesome. Because I’m not a violent person, I sat down and denied everything.
Pollack stated that it was not the first time he had read an attempt to distance herself from the murder from her pen. Last year, she wrote, “My behaviour should not have resulted in this consequence.”