Indigenous communities offer nation-wide support search of Winnipeg landfill

By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter 

(ANNews) – Indigenous voices from across Canada are amplifying calls for Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson to permit the search of a Winnipeg landfill for the bodies of Indigenous women allegedly targeted by a serial killer. 

The privately-owned Prairie Green landfill in north Winnipeg is believed to be the location of the remains of Morgan Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26. 

Jeremy Skibicki has been charged with their murder, as well as the murder of 24-year-old Rebecca Contois, whose partial remains were found at the city-operated Brady landfill site, and an unidentified victim who has been given the name Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, meaning Buffalo Woman in Ojibwe.

The local Indigenous community and its supporters established a blockade outside of the Brady landfill to protest Stefanson’s refusal to fund a search of Prairie Green. That blockade was dismantled after the City of Winnipeg successfully obtained an injunction against the protestors. 

The protestors then moved their encampment to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in downtown Winnipeg. 

Stefanson has said her refusal to support a search is based on safety concerns for those who would have to sift through waste, but a feasibility study said it was possible to search the landfill safely and thoroughly by using a conveyor belt. 

With an Indigenous population of more than 102,000, according to the 2021 census, Winnipeg is the Canadian city with the largest urban Indigenous population, followed by Edmonton with 87,600. 

On July 25, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs issued a statement saying it “stands steadfastly” with Indigenous voices in Winnipeg and is “appalled” by Stefanson’s refusal to search the landfill.  

“The indignity and trauma experienced by victims and family members through these violent murders and disgraceful disposal of First Nations women is exacerbated by the governments’ inaction and lack of will,” it read. 

This comes after the Assembly of First Nations passed an emergency resolution at its July annual general assembly denouncing Sefanson’s unwillingness to cooperate and advocating federal and provincial governments conduct a “thorough search” of the landfill. 

The resolution invoked the Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ (MMIWG) Calls for Justice, as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) — both of which have been endorsed by the federal government. 

MMIWG Call to Action 1.5 demands “all governments to immediately take all necessary measures to prevent, investigate, punish, and compensate for violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.” 

UNDRIP Article 22(2) requires governments “take measures, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.”

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