Slaying victim’s family to hold traditional ceremony at Brady landfill
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Brady Road landfill officials have agreed to escort family members of slaying victim Morgan Harris into the site for a closer view and to hold a traditional ceremony, the Indigenous woman’s cousin says.
Melissa Normand has asked the city to allow supporters, including an elder, to accompany relatives to help say prayers, smudge the ground and offer a spirit dish to Harris on Friday.
“I want the area blessed and smudged, and we’ll leave a spirit dish behind,” Normand told the Free Press via Facebook Messenger on Wednesday, a day after meeting with the landfill’s supervisor and engineer at city hall.
A spirit dish contains an offering of food for a loved one who has died.
Normand is among those calling for Brady Road and the privately owned Prairie Green Landfill to be searched for the remains of missing or slain Indigenous women.
The calls have escalated since Dec. 1, when Winnipeg police announced new charges against a city man who is accused of killing four Indigenous women, including Harris.
Police believe the remains of Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran 26, were deposited at Prairie Green, just north of the city, in mid-May.
Normand, however, believes Harris’s remains are at the Brady Road site on Winnipeg’s southern limits.
It is where police found remains of Rebecca Contois, 24, during a search in June.
The investigation began when some of her remains were found in a garbage bin in North Kildonan in mid-May.
Police revealed Dec. 1 they had identified three additional victims, including Harris and Myran.
Detectives do not have a definitive location of a fourth woman. She has been named Buffalo Woman by Indigenous elders while police try to identify her. Homicide detectives believe she was killed in March.
Jeremy Skibicki, 35, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder. He has been in custody since his arrest in May.
Normand said Brady Road officials informed her trucks are no longer dumping garbage in the area, known as a “cell,” where Contois’s remains were discovered.
“Rebecca was found in cell 33 and since the police investigation, they started dumping into cell 34,” Norman said. “I believe my cousin Morgan is also in cell 33. She was murdered just weeks before Rebecca, so if her remains are there, they would be further down.
“I confirmed this with the engineer and supervisor of Brady.”
Normand said she asked the officials if it would be possible to take family members to see cell 33, and they agreed.
She believes a search of the area is feasible.
“I’m happy to hear that they have ceased dumping since June, but I did state that our main priority now is to bring these women home for a proper burial,” said Normand. “That’s what’s disturbing to me most is that Morgan lays there amongst garbage. That is not a proper place to spend your eternity.
“Morgan’s remains wouldn’t be that far down away from where Rebecca was found.”
The city did not comment on the meeting despite multiple requests.
The Brady Road landfill and 4R depot have been closed since Sunday, when a group of Indigenous advocates set up a blockade to escalate its calls for a search. A small number of activists has been staying overnight in tents despite this week’s extreme cold.
Prairie Green’s owner, Waste Connections of Canada, has said it has temporarily halted operations while search options are explored.
An Indigenous-led committee is preparing to study the feasibility of searching the Prairie Green and Brady Road landfills for remains.
The three levels of government and police have offered support.
Manitoba Grand Chief Cathy Merrick met with members of the RCMP on Tuesday to discuss details on searching for MMIWG2S+ people, said a post on the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Facebook page.
The Winnipeg Police Service conducted an assessment of Prairie Green, after homicide detectives learned in mid-June that Harris and Myran’s remains may have been deposited there 34 days earlier.
Police decided a search of the four-acre landfill isn’t feasible for a number of reasons, including the tonnes of refuse that had been disposed there during the passage of time, including tonnes of animal waste and asbestos. The waste was compacted with 9,000 tonnes of wet clay.
As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.