City appeals to activists blockading Brady landfill
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Discussions began Tuesday between the City of Winnipeg and activists who’ve shut down Winnipeg’s only active landfill to back up their calls for a search for human remains.
City officials and organizers met at city hall to discuss the Brady Road landfill blockade, which began Sunday.
A group of advocates for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people is preventing waste from being deposited at the site, where it believes more remains may be found.
As part of the discussion, the city has offered to give them more information about landfill operations, said Colin Fast, a spokesman for Mayor Scott Gillingham.
The meeting involved the city’s administration, not the mayor, said Fast.
Neither the city nor an organizer who attended the meeting responded to requests for comment.
Before the meeting, Coun. Brian Mayes, who chairs the water, waste and environment committee, said he hopes something can be worked out so operations can resume while activists remain at the site.
“For now, the operations are shut down and, hopefully, some talks can continue to resolve the blockade part,” he said. “There’s certainly a willingness from the city to see if this can be resolved.”
The activists are among those who’ve been calling for searches of Brady Road and the privately owned Prairie Green Landfill since police announced Dec. 1 a Winnipeg man, who had been charged in one slaying, was accused of killing three additional women.
Charged with four counts of first-degree murder, Jeremy Skibicki, 35, is accused of killing Rebecca Contois, Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran and an unidentified woman who’s been named Buffalo Woman by Indigenous elders.
Police said they learned in June the remains of Harris, 39, and Myran, 26, were likely deposited at Prairie Green, just north of Winnipeg, in mid-May.
Remains belonging to Contois, 24, were found in a garbage bin in North Kildonan in May and during the Winnipeg Police Service’s search of the Brady Road landfill in June.
Police do not have a definitive location of Buffalo Woman’s remains.
The WPS decided not to search Prairie Green, believing there is no hope of finding the women’s remains due to the passage of time and tonnes of waste being deposited since then.
While Brady Road remained closed for a third day, city garbage and recycling collection continued Tuesday.
Waste and other material usually bound for Brady Road, located on the city’s southern limits, was being diverted to at least one other landfill in the region.
Mayes said a private landfill near Ile des Chênes, about 15 kilometres south of Winnipeg, is an option while Brady Road is closed.
He suggested some of the city’s waste may end up being disposed of at Prairie Green if that site reopens while Brady Road is still inaccessible.
“It would be sad if more waste goes to Prairie Green,” said Mayes, the councillor for St. Vital.
Prairie Green’s owner, Waste Connections of Canada, said it has temporarily halted operations while an Indigenous-led committee studies the feasibility of searching the landfill for the two women’s remains.
A landfill spokesman did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Mayes noted the shutdown of Brady Road will bring an added cost to the city.
Trucks belonging to private contractors must travel longer distances to dispose of waste, he said.
“I don’t think we have anything yet, but there is a cost,” said Mayes.
At Brady Road, some of the activists have been staying overnight in a tent despite extremely cold weather.
Environment Canada expected a temperature of -30 C and a wind chill of -41 in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The activists want the city to dump refuse in an unused portion of the 1,952-acre site, which opened in 1973.
The site has capacity for more than 100 additional years of waste disposal, assuming existing waste diversion practices continue, according to a 2021 annual report.
Mayes said there is empty land where new waste can be dumped, but preparatory work would have to take place.
He’s not sure if the work can be done in extreme cold.
A search of Brady Road would be a “pretty huge undertaking,” he said.
The site holds about 12 million metric tonnes of waste, with more than 300,000 metric tonnes of waste deposited every year, the city’s latest annual report says.
As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.