Prairie Green landfill resumes partial operations
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RURAL MUNICPAILITY OF ROSSER — A landfill section where the remains of two Indigenous women may be buried has been cordoned off, pending a search feasibility study, with operations since resuming elsewhere at the Manitoba site.
Garbage trucks and pickups hauling trailers were coming and going from the Prairie Green landfill, just north of Winnipeg, on Friday afternoon, after a temporary halt in operations earlier this month.
Trucks — some belonging to GFL Environmental and Miller Waste Systems, which are contracted to collect waste from Winnipeg homes — were taking garbage to the northwest corner of the landfill, where heavy machinery was being used.
The province and the families of Morgan Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26, have been assured owner Waste Connections of Canada has stopped dumping in the area, or cell, where the women’s remains may be located.
According to a Manitoba government spokesman, the area was identified based on a timeline provided by Winnipeg police, who are investigating the alleged serial killings of four Indigenous women.
“The area is cordoned off and the landfill has committed to keeping that area secured,” the spokesman wrote in an email. “The Prairie Green company has remained extremely co-operative and will continue to keep that area closed until advised by the authorities.
“The company has a new cell that it is currently directing its waste to within the same complex.”
Waste Connections of Canada paused operations around Dec. 8, amid early discussions about searching the Prairie Green and Brady Road (south Winnipeg) landfills.
An Indigenous-led committee is carrying out a feasibility study.
Myran’s grandmother, Donna Bartlett, didn’t know operations had resumed in other parts of Prairie Green. She was told waste would no longer be dumped in a cell where her granddaughter’s remains are thought to be.
“I can just hope they’re doing what they said they were going to do,” she said Friday. “They said they were going to block off a spot where they think the bodies are.”
The same information was given to Harris’s family, said her daughter, Cambria.
“The actual cell the women were believed to be in is closed off, and they’re dumping elsewhere, which is fine,” she said. “But I want Brady searched as well for any and all missing and murdered Indigenous women, as well as my mother.
“If we can’t find our women, then where are they?”
Harris’s relatives are holding a traditional ceremony Wednesday at Prairie Green to honour her. It will be similar to the ceremony they held Dec. 23 at Brady Road.
Waste Connections of Canada did not respond to a request for comment. District manager Barry Blue previously said the company is participating on the committee and sharing its knowledge and expertise.
Alongside Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham, Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson announced Dec. 8 that Prairie Green’s operations had been paused.
Prairie Green’s gates were closed when the Free Press visited the site in the RM of Rosser the following week.
Coun. Brian Mayes, chairman of the water, waste and environment committee, identified Prairie Green as a likely destination for garbage collected from Winnipeg homes while the Brady Road landfill is shut.
Contract holders GFL and Miller did not respond to requests for comment.
Brady Road has been closed since Dec. 18, when advocates for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people set up a blockade and a camp to escalate calls for landfill searches.
Winnipeg police launched an investigation into the alleged serial killings in May, when partial remains belonging to Rebecca Contois, 24, were found in a garbage bin in North Kildonan.
Jeremy Skibicki, 35, was charged with first-degree murder.
Some of Contois’s remains were found in June while police searched Brady Road, the city’s only active landfill.
The cell where officers made the discovery is no longer in use, the city said.
On Dec. 1, police announced Harris, Myran and an unidentified woman, who’s since been named Buffalo Woman by Indigenous elders, were also slain.
Skibicki has been charged with three more counts of first-degree murder.
The homicide unit learned in June that Harris and Myran’s remains were likely deposited at Prairie Green 34 days earlier.
Police said an assessment by the forensic unit determined a search of the landfill wasn’t feasible, in part, due to the tonnes of waste dumped at the site during the passage of time.
The victims’s families and Indigenous leaders believe the women’s remains can be found.
Members of Harris’s family believe her remains could be at Brady Road, given that’s where police found some of Contois’s remains, and want both landfills to be searched.
Police said earlier this month they do not have a definitive location of Buffalo Woman’s remains.
Gillingham is open to the possibility of a search of the Brady Road landfill, said spokesman Colin Fast.
“As the city doesn’t have the expertise or resources to conduct a search like this itself, we’d be looking to the provincial and federal governments for significant support,” Fast wrote in an email.
Activists at the Brady Road blockade said community liaisons from the city’s police and fire paramedic services visited Friday.
“The WFPS community liaison has visited the site periodically to help ensure the group is staying safe and to help reduce the risk of fires or other emergencies,” city spokesman David Driedger wrote in an email.
The Winnipeg Police Service’s public information office did not have details of the visit.
As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.