A 29-year-old man accused of killing his common-law wife, their three young children and a female relative in a crime spree on Sunday was charged the next day with five counts of first-degree murder, according to Manitoba RCMP.

All five victims and the accused lived together in the community of Carman, 75 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg. Four of the bodies were all found in various locations in southern Manitoba on Sunday.

Ryan Howard Manoakeesick is in custody after being charged with the first-degree murders of his spouse Amanda Clearwater, 30; Bethany Clearwater, 6; Jayven Clearwater, 4; Isabella Clearwater, 2 ½ months; and Amanda’s 17-year-old niece, Myah Gratton.

This one of the biggest homicide cases in Manitoba in more than a decade.

The victims and suspect are all Indigenous, as confirmed by the RCMP and the Garden Hill Indian Reserve.

It is not known why this family was living so far from Garden Hill, a reserve 610 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

Though the RCMP did not provide a motive for the homicides at a Feb. 12 news conference, Manoakeesick, who had been in foster care since the age of eight, has a history of addiction and mental health issues.

Court records show Manoakeesick has a limited criminal record, with one conviction in 2019 for mischief to property for which he received a conditional discharge and 18 months supervised probation.

He was under the influence of methamphetamine and “confused and delirious” when he entered a garage in downtown Winnipeg in July 2019, accidentally locking himself inside and causing damage.

Manoakeesick was taken to hospital in a state of psychosis and released later that day. That evening, he was at an inner-city Tim Hortons restaurant when he threw a glass mug at an electronic display, shattering it. Fearing for their safety, staff locked themselves in a back room and called 911.

His lawyer blamed mental health issues causing anxiety and depression.

The judge ordered that Manoakeesick undergo addictions and mental-health assessments while on probation.

“At the end of the day, if you don’t do something, it is going to cost you your family,” the judge said.

And so, it did.

Cathy Merrick, the top indigenous leader in Manitoba as grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said, “It’s not our way as a people, it’s not our way in our culture and our language… violence is something that we have learned as a people,” she told the news conference.

Where this was learned from will soon be bandied about by the usual activist suspects who will use settler colonialism, cultural genocide, racism, the residential schools, and the foster care system as the main villains for Manoakeesick’s vile actions.

Since Manoakeesick has never been incarcerated, the criminal justice system will be exempt from explicit blame.

Contrary to the prevailing activist narrative, why people impulsively commit murder is poorly understood by scientists, but it is likely related to a neurological inability to control feelings of anger as they interact with those around them, especially under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For mass murderers, the trigger sometimes arises from years of personal disappointment and failure that results in a combination of profound hopelessness and deep-seated resentment.

Manoakeesick was charged in 2021 with two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm after a vehicle he was allegedly operating collided with a passenger van east of Carman.

Manoakeesick was arrested and released on a summons to appear in court. His case was set for trial last August, but after his lawyer reported in April they had lost contact with him. A warrant was issued for Manoakeesick’s arrest.

He was taken into custody July 14 and released on bail four days later despite opposition from the Crown, who argued detention was necessary to “ensure he attends future court dates.”

Manoakeesick’s lawyer said he was on long-term disability due to his “mental health struggles.”

“I am being told he is doing much better,” the lawyer told the court, which released Manoakeesick on bail with the requirement he live at the rented Carman home he shared with his common-law wife.

Manoakeesick is now accused of attacking his own family. This serves as a sad reminder that a preponderance of the violence suffered by Indigenous people in Canada, particularly by women, comes by the hand of other Indigenous people. A criminal justice system that is deliberately lenient towards Indigenous offenders puts Indigenous communities at greater risk.

Refusing to incarcerate Manoakeesick using racist Gladue sentencing principles restricted to Indigenous people, despite evidence suggesting he would never show up for trial, is not improving conditions for Indigenous people. In fact, it is increasing the quantum of Indigenous suffering. If Manoakeesick were still in jail, he would not have been able to murder these five precious people.

What caused these murders wasn’t generations of trauma based on colonialism, cultural genocide, racism, the residential schools, and the foster care system. It was a criminal justice system that puts Indigenous people at risk by failing to appropriately sentence indigenous criminals or releasing them too soon.

Hymie Rubenstein, a retired professor of anthropology, the University of Manitoba is editor of REAL Israel & Palestine Report and REAL Indigenous Report


  • Hymie Rubenstein

    Hymie Rubenstein is a retired professor of anthropology at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada who is now engaged in debunking the many myths about Canada’s Indigenous peoples.