‘We’re not going anywhere’

Brady Road landfill blockade continues


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The blockade of Winnipeg’s only active landfill looks set to continue for some time, with MMIWG2S+ activists expanding their camp over the holidays while demanding a search for human remains.

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The blockade of Winnipeg’s only active landfill looks set to continue for some time, with MMIWG2S+ activists expanding their camp over the holidays while demanding a search for human remains.

On site since Dec. 18, the group is refusing to leave until a search for missing and murdered women, including victims of an alleged serial killer, takes place at the Brady Road landfill on the Manitoba capital’s southern limits.

“We’re not going anywhere. I’m standing firm on that until my cousin comes home and these other women come home,” said Melissa Normand, who stayed overnight on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

The camp has grown to include a large military-style tent with a wood stove, courtesy of Long Plain First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson, said Normand.

The tent is being used as a common area, while a large ice-fishing shelter donated by the Southern Chiefs’ Organization is used for sleeping.

As of Tuesday, said Normand, there have been no talks with the City of Winnipeg specifically about resolving the blockade.

“They haven’t reached out in any way at all,” said Normand. “They haven’t asked for anything, they haven’t said anything.”

On Dec. 21, she met with landfill officials to discuss operations and organize a Dec. 23 visit involving family members and an Indigenous elder, who held a traditional ceremony to honour her cousin, Morgan Harris.

Harris is one of four Indigenous women who are believed to be victims of an alleged serial killer, according to Winnipeg police.

Police believe the remains of Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26, were deposited at the privately-owned Prairie Green landfill, north of Winnipeg, in May.

Harris’s family members, however, believe her remains could be in the same area of Brady Road where police found partial remains belonging to Rebecca Contois, 24, in June.

Some of Contois’s remains were found in a garbage bin in North Kildonan a few weeks earlier.

The city confirmed the area, or cell, where Contois’s remains were found at Brady Road is no longer in use.

Earlier this month, police said they do not have a definitive location of an unidentified woman who’s been named Buffalo Woman by Indigenous elders.

Jeremy Skibicki, 35, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder.

When he announced Dec. 1 that Skibicki is accused of killing three more women, Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth said police determined a search of Prairie Green wasn’t feasible.

One of the reasons, he said, is the tonnes of waste deposited at the site over 34 days before police learned Harris and Myran’s remains may be there.

Both women were members of Long Plain.

Normand wondered if city officials hoped the activists would end their blockade after Harris’s relatives were allowed an escorted visit into the Brady Road landfill last week.

If so, it’s not going to happen, said Normand.

“That is not a cemetery up there (in the landfill). The remains should not stay up there,” she said. “They need to search. They need to get on it.”

The City of Winnipeg has enacted contingency plans to avoid disruption to garbage and recycling collection while Brady Road is closed.

The city has refused to disclose details of its plans, citing security reasons, as households generate more waste than usual due to the holiday season.

“The City of Winnipeg continues to restrict public access at Brady Road landfill and Brady 4R Winnipeg Depot during the ongoing protests near the entrance to the facility,” a spokesman wrote in an email Tuesday. “We don’t have any further updates to provide at this time.”

For Harris’s loved ones, the Dec. 23 ceremony was emotionally draining. It involved prayers, a blessing of the ground and a spirit plate, which contains an offering of food to a person who has died.

“I had to take two days after that to kind of pull myself together,” said Normand.

Harris’s relatives are planning to hold a similar ceremony at Prairie Green in the Rural Municipality of Rosser. The site is owned by Waste Connections of Canada.

“They’re open to us coming there and doing that,” said Normand.

A spokesman for the company did not respond to a request for comment.

The company previously said it has halted operations while an Indigenous-led committee studies the feasibility of landfill searches.

Operations at Brady Road continued until the blockade began more than a week ago.

The number of activists at the blockade, set up near the 4R depot’s gates, varies depending on the time of day.

People, including strangers, come and go while visiting or dropping off food, coffee, fire wood or other supplies.

Normand said her family asked to have more involvement in the committee’s study and planning of any searches.

She said a meeting was held Tuesday to address the family’s concerns and involve them more in the future.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs did not respond to a request for comment. Grand Chief Cathy Merrick has been appointed a spokesperson for the committee.


Twitter: @chriskitching

Chris Kitching

As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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