Warning: The details in this article may upset some viewers. Caution is advised.
The city’s mayor announced Thursday that the federal government will support an Aboriginal-led study into the feasibility of finding the remains of missing women in Winnipeg-area landfills.
Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham said at a city council meeting that he received confirmation Wednesday afternoon from federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Mark Miller.
“The federal government will fund a feasibility study into landfill recycling searches,” Gillingham told the conference. “And I know the City of Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Police Service will be involved in this process.”
“I hope this news brings some comfort to these families and the people of Winnipeg.”
CTV News Winnipeg has reached out to Mueller’s office for comment.
Grand Chief Cathy Merrick of the Manitoba Assembly of Chiefs said Wednesday a committee has been formed to work on integrating the research, including a consultant with forensic expertise hired by the Long Plains First Nation, Chief Kyra Wilson of the Long Plains Nation , a forensic anthropologist and a member of the AMC and Winnipeg police.
Calls to locate homicide victims Marcedes Myran, 26, and Morgan Harris, 39, in Rosser RM’s Prairie Green Landfill north of Winnipeg have grown since the WPS said earlier this month that the search may not be successful. That’s because some time had passed since the women’s remains were believed to have been brought there after they were killed by the same man last spring, officials said.
Police announced earlier this month that they charged Jeremy Skibicki, 35, with murders in Myran, Harris and a fourth Buffalo woman. Woman was charged with three additional counts of first-degree murder in the death of the woman.
In May, Skibicki was charged with first-degree murder in the killing of 24-year-old Rebecca Contois, whose body was partially found in a trash can near an apartment building on Edison Avenue. That led to a search of the Brady Road landfill south of the city, where police found human remains identified as Contois.
Police believe operations at the Prairie Green landfill, where Myran and Harris are located, have been suspended while next steps are discussed regarding the search of the facility.
Over the past two days, Merrick and Long Plains Sheriff Wilson met with Winnipeg Police Chiefs Gillingham and Danny Smith.
Wilson said Smith apologized to him during the meeting.
Demonstrators gather outside Winnipeg City Hall to demand a landfill search for the body of a missing woman, Dec. 15, 2022. (CTV News Photo Jamie Dowsett)
Demonstrators gathered at Winnipeg City Hall hours after Gillingham announced the federal government would fund the feasibility study, calling on the city to close the Brady Road landfill until other missing Aboriginal women are located.
“We want it closed,” said Melissa Normand, Harris’ cousin. “Shutting down Prairie Green is only half the job. We know there are other women in Brady, so why are we still allowing dumping to be done there? Why are we still allowing our cities to throw trash at our women?”
Demonstrators have been blocking access to the landfill and plan to continue doing so until it is closed.
“I go there every day,” Normand said.
Harris’ 18-year-old daughter, Elle, told reporters they attended the protest outside City Hall because a search should have been conducted.
“What a mess,” Elle said. “I don’t think it’s right that they’re not looking for these women’s bodies, especially one of them is my mum. We all want to have funerals. We want closure, but we can’t because no one is looking for them.”
“I knew I definitely wanted a funeral, but without her body, no one would.”
Sue Caribou, the aunt of Tanya Nepinak who disappeared in 2011, also wants Brady searched. In 2012, police searched the landfill for Nepinak but did not find her.
“We don’t want landfills to start becoming the untold graves of our people,” Caribou said. “Our people don’t belong in the dump.”
Gillingham said he needed to continue discussions with the commission on the scope of the study, but said that if the City of Winnipeg’s landfill was searched, he wanted any closures to be limited to certain areas within the landfill.
“I’m looking for us to work together to find a way to isolate the problem area or problem areas and find a way to continue landfill operations, maybe on another part of the site that won’t cause problems in any way, search, said Gillingham.
“I’m working hard to make sure our operations can continue, although it could be in another part of the venue, those discussions haven’t been fully discussed with respect to water and waste and committee members.”
People affected by missing and killed Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ2S+ people can call the support line at 1-844-413-6649.
The Commonwealth also provides additional mental health and community-based emotional support and cultural services.