Protesters demanding search for women’s remains shut down access to Brady Road landfill
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A group of advocates for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people has shut down public access to Winnipeg’s Brady Road landfill, calling for a halt to dumping and a search for human remains.
The group has vowed to maintain a blockade and camp outside the city-run landfill until a search is conducted. Protesters previously blocked public access to the landfill and 4R depot on Dec. 11, 13 and 14.
“That’s up to our politicians and our governments,” said participant Taylor Orpin. “We will be here as long as it takes. Our sisters’ bodies do not belong here, and we are here to bring them home.”
“Even if it takes a whole year, we will be here,” added Tre DeLaronde during an interview inside a tent set up near a set of gates. We’re here in solidarity with the families so they may have a voice and their cries are not ignored.”
Orpin said the group wants justice for Rebecca Contois, Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran and an unidentified woman who’s been named Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe (Buffalo Woman) by elders.
Police believe the Indigenous women were killed by accused serial killer Jeremy Skibicki, 35, who has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder.
The Brady Road landfill and 4R depot have been closed since the protest group, including members of Harris’s family and the First Nations Indigenous Warriors, arrived Sunday afternoon.
City garbage collection will continue while the site is closed, said spokesman Kalen Qually.
Running on little sleep, three protesters were at the blockade at midday Monday while supporters dropped off bottled water, coffee, food, firewood and other supplies.
Propane heaters were running inside the tent; the outside temperature was close to -20 C.
The size of the group has fluctuated since it forced the landfill to close in an escalation of demands for a search.
Police began an investigation when Contois’ partial remains were found in a North Kildonan garbage bin last May.
Additional remains were found in June while police searched the Brady Road landfill.
Homicide detectives believe the remains of Harris and Myran were deposited at privately owned Prairie Green Landfill, just north of Winnipeg, in mid-May.
Police recently decided a search wasn’t feasible for a variety of reasons, including the volume of waste deposited over the 34 days before officers learned the women’s remains might be there.
Earlier this month, police said they do not have a definitive location of Buffalo Woman’s remains.
An Indigenous-led committee is studying the feasibility of searching both Prairie Green and Brady Road. The three levels of government and police are participating on the committee, with Ottawa paying for the study.
Prairie Green’s owner, Waste Connections of Canada, has temporarily paused operations at the site.
“Our company continues to co-operate with all parties involved and to support the community during this difficult time,” district manager Barry Blue wrote in an email Monday. “We support the Indigenous-led feasibility study, we have agreed to participate on and assist the committee, sharing our knowledge and expertise.”
At a protest outside city hall Thursday, participants demanded the city immediately stop dumping waste at Brady Road. As operations continued, Orpin said the group decided Saturday to block access to the site to “protect” remains that are believed to be there.
“We told them if you do not stop dumping, we will,” she said. “This landfill has ample space to dump elsewhere. That was a simple ask to stop desecrating the land where our sisters lie.”
Red dresses, which are a symbol of missing and murdered Indigenous women, have been attached to a security fence next to the road.
An upside-down Canadian flag — with “No justice, no peace, bring the missing home” scrawled on it — hangs from one of the gates.
Orpin and DeLaronde said calls for action to protect Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people have been ignored for too long.
They said they will no longer stand for inaction or allow the pleas of advocates or families to be ignored.
“It is going to take all of us — all people, all nations — standing together for justice, for love, for basic human decency,” said Orpin.
Police had not visited the site as of Monday afternoon.
“We support our citizens’ right to peacefully, legally, and safely protest,” a Winnipeg Police Service spokeswoman wrote in an email.
As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.