Police chief extends olive branch to slaying victims’ families


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Tensions have eased following a meeting between Winnipeg’s police chief, Indigenous leaders and the family of the victim of an alleged serial killer, just days after they demanded the top cop resign.

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Tensions have eased following a meeting between Winnipeg’s police chief, Indigenous leaders and the family of the victim of an alleged serial killer, just days after they demanded the top cop resign.

Chief Danny Smyth offered tobacco to Long Plain Chief Kyra Wilson, Manitoba Grand Chief Cathy Merrick and the family of Morgan Harris, one of two women whose remains are believed to have been buried at a landfill north of Winnipeg last spring.

Wilson said she felt her concerns about the police decision not to search the landfill were heard.

“The meeting definitely de-escalated the situation.… It is my hope that today’s meeting solidified that commitment from the Winnipeg police to support our search efforts right now.”

She said the discussion focused on how police will support the Indigenous community and families of slaying victims.

Police will be part of a committee led by First Nations groups to determine whether recovering the remains of the two women in the landfill north of Winnipeg could be feasible.

Winnipeg police said last week the remains of Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26, were thought to be in the same truckload taken to the Prairie Green Landfill May 16. Homicide investigators learned human remains were likely dumped at the site north of the city 34 days later, on June 20, police said.

The two victims, along with Rebecca Contois, 24, and an unidentified woman Indigenous elders have named Buffalo Woman, are believed to have been slain by accused serial killer Jeremy Skibicki, 35. He has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder.

Smyth and the inspector in charge of forensics said it had been determined a search would be futile given the passage of time, safety concerns and volume of material recently deposited at the site, including 1,500 tonnes of animal remains and 250 tonnes of asbestos.

That prompted loud demands for Smyth’s resignation from Indigenous groups and victims’ family members.

Wilson said Smyth went to Wednesday’s meeting with “an open heart and open mind.”

Indigenous leaders are working on a feasibility study for a potential search with forensics and archeological experts as well as landfill operators. Wilson hopes the civic, provincial and federal governments will pay for the search.

On Wednesday, the federal government confirmed Smyth and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino had spoken about a potential search.

“(It) largely revolved around how we can offer support whether it is through resources, technology or feasibility. We will be there to help,” Mendicino said. “…There is a concrete offer to help however we can.

“However, we also want to be sure we are respectful of the trial right now, which is ongoing. One of the things that the families want, all Canadians want when there is a trial that involves homicide is justice.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons Wednesday his government will look to provide support, but provided no details.

“We see the level of pain and the federal government will look to do whatever we can to support the province, the city and whoever needs support in terms of giving closure and justice for these families,” Trudeau said.

Federal cabinet minister Dan Vandal, a Winnipeg MP, said he’s spoken with Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham and federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Miller about how the federal government can assist.

“My sincere condolences go out to them, and through action and healing, I hope they can receive closure. We will continue to work with all orders of government to address the systemic discrimination and anti-Indigenous violence and put an end to this crisis,” Vandal said in a statement.


Twitter: @erik_pindera

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.

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