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Rallies across Canada demand landfill search for slain Indigenous women

Families and supporters want city, feds, province to work together to come up with a solution
A protester speaks with Winnipeg police Insp. Gord Spado, centre, and Const. Brian Wurm, right, as City of Winnipeg workers remove a blockade on the main road into the Brady Road landfill just outside Winnipeg,Tuesday July 18, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski

Calls to search a Winnipeg-area landfill for the remains of two First Nations women are ramping up as rallies take place across the country.

Families of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran lead a round dance Thursday at the city’s well-known downtown intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street.

“Search the landfill! Bring our women home!” people chanted as red paint was poured onto the pavement before the traditional dance. About 100 people then marched to the legislature.

Pressure has been mounting since Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said her government would not support a search of the privately owned Prairies Green Landfill north of the city, because it could expose searchers to toxic material.

Families of the women and supporters are calling on the premier to reconsider and for the city, the province and the federal government to work together to come up with a solution.

Some of the family members said they met earlier in the day with federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Gary Anandasangaree, who was appointed to the post last week.

Anandasangaree also sat down with Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham.

“The mayor reiterated his earlier call for the federal and provincial governments to speak with each other and work co-operatively to determine a clear path forward for the families,” said a statement from the mayor’s office.

The premier’s office was expected to release a statement later in the day.

A federally funded study indicated that a search could take three years, expose workers to hazardous material and cost as much as $184 million with no guarantee of success.

Former Crown-Indigenous Relations minister Marc Miller criticized the province for shirking responsibilities because it’s responsible for landfills, while Stefanson accused Miller of politicizing a tragedy.

Experts consulted for the study have said risks could be mitigated and the search could be done safely.

A solidarity rally calling for the landfill search was held outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Wednesday. One is planned for Saturday outside the Confederation Building in St. John’s.

Jeremy Skibicki has been charged with first-degree murder in the killings of the women and two others — Rebecca Contois, whose partial remains were found in a different landfill last year, and an unidentified woman Indigenous leaders are calling Buffalo Woman, whose remains have not been found.

READ ALSO: Searching landfill for remains of Indigenous women too complex for police: RCMP