Province backs landfill-search feasibility study


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The Manitoba government will support an Indigenous-led feasibility study to find remains of at least two women slain by an alleged serial killer and buried at the Prairie Green Landfill.

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The Manitoba government will support an Indigenous-led feasibility study to find remains of at least two women slain by an alleged serial killer and buried at the Prairie Green Landfill.

Premier Heather Stefanson promised financial and technical support for the study following a meeting with Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Cathy Merrick and Long Plain First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson on Friday afternoon.

“As a mother and a parent, I know too well the lengths I would go to for my children. So to the families, from my heart, I am so incredibly sorry for your loss,” Stefanson said.

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement late Friday that said Justin Trudeau had spoken to Stefanson to discuss opportunities to collaborate on the study and remain in regular contact on the issue. They agreed they must work together and focus on healing for the community, the PMO said.

Winnipeg police have charged Jeremy Skibicki, 35, in the slayings of four women earlier this year: Rebecca Contois, 24; Morgan Harris, 39; Marcedes Myran, 26; and a fourth unidentified woman known as Buffalo Woman.

Police believe Harris and Myran’s remains were disposed in mid-May at the Prairie Green Landfill north of Winnipeg.

However, a search of the four-acre site in the Rural Municipality of Rosser would not be feasible, police said, owing to the time that had elapsed, the volume and types of material deposited at the site, and health and safety concerns for searchers.

Contois’s partial remains were recovered from the Brady Road landfill, south of the city, in June after remains were found in a garbage bin near Skibicki’s apartment block in North Kildonan.

A First Nations-led committee is studying the feasibility of carrying out a search at Prairie Green. The committee includes an anthropologist and representatives from the Winnipeg police, the AMC and Long Plain First Nation.

On Dec. 8, operations at the landfill were paused following a request from the province. The pause allowed elected officials to meet with Indigenous community members and experts to determine possible next steps, including whether a search could be conducted.

Stefanson said the landfill operator has agreed to stop operations in the affected area indefinitely and until a clear direction is established through the study.

A provincial representative will also join the committee and provide technical resources and expertise as necessary, she said. The province’s financial contribution to the study is still to be determined.

“Because this is going to be led by Indigenous communities, we want them to come forward and indicate to us what they would like to see from this,” Stefanson said.

On Thursday, federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller confirmed Ottawa will also contribute to the bill.

The premier committed to doing everything in her power to “protect the integrity of the justice process” to bring closure to the families. She called the killings a national tragedy.

“We must stop this from happening,” she said.

Merrick said all Manitobans must acknowledge the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.

“We will continue to search for our women,” Merrick said, while acknowledging the province’s support.

Merrick said the committee had its initial meeting on Thursday and will meet again next week.

Last week, Harris’s daughters Cambria and Kera took their plea to locate their mother’s remains to Ottawa, backed by Winnipeg Centre MP Leah Gazan, Wilson and the AMC. The decision by police not to search the landfill also spurred calls for police Chief Danny Smyth to resign.

However, a meeting between Smyth, Wilson, Merrick and the slain women’s family on Wednesday eased tensions.

Meanwhile, Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham said he’s looking to have the city shut down partial areas of its landfills if they are to be searched, and has shared that information with the study committee.

In the past week, protesters have repeatedly blocked access to the city-operated landfill to demand it be searched for remains of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.


Updated on Friday, December 16, 2022 8:20 PM CST: Adds comments from the Prime Minister’s Office.

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