As someone who has been waiting more than two decades for justice and accountability, Bridget Tolley says she was in shock that Manitoba’s outgoing premier announced her opposition to searching a Winnipeg area landfill where the remains of two First Nations women are believed to be.
Tolley says the search is a human rights issue and no person deserves to have a landfill as their final resting place.
“We’re not political, we’re human beings. It’s not a political issue whether we search or not. It should be, we’re searching and that’s it we’re going to bring home everybody, anybody who’s in the landfill. It doesn’t matter who it is or which landfill. They need to be found,” Tolley says on the latest edition of Face to Face.
During the recent provincial election in Manitoba, the Progressive Conservative party campaigned hard on the decision by Premier Heather Stefanson, not to search the landfill. Stefanson was defeated by the NDP under the leadership of Wab Kinew.
Kinew says the search will happen. Just one day after the provincial election, the federal government announced additional funding for further study on the health hazards associated with the search.
“We have the technology to do it, we have dogs to do it, I would’ve done it a long time ago. And if Canada doesn’t want to do it, it looks like we might have to go do it ourselves and I know we can do it, we just need to find the right people,” says Tolley.
Tolley recently organized a rally on Parliament Hill calling for the landfills to be searched. She’s been rallying on the hill for more than two decades.
In 2001, her mother Gladys Tolley was struck and killed in Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg by a Quebec provincial police officer.
Last year, Tolley received an apology, in private, from police and government officials. However, she would still like to see an independent investigation into how the police handled the case.
That apology came after years of doing her own research into the police reports and autopsy. Tolley says it shouldn’t be left up to the families to investigate what happened to their loved ones.
Tolley says there needs to be more accountability from police, governments and chiefs and council.
“It’s not going to change until we change this. These people have to change, our leaders have to change. NWAC [Native Womens Association of Canada], AFN [Assembly of First Nations], all these organizations that say they help families, it’s a Monday to Friday job for them, 9 to 5. But us, it happens mostly at night or on weekends when missing people need help,” says Tolley.
Tolley heads up Families of Sisters in Spirit, a grassroots, volunteer organization led by families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people.
“We just help families with what we can. We don’t have too much, just the donations that we get. We don’t accept government funding because I don’t want them to tell us what to do and what to say like they do to other organizations. We do what we can to honour and remember all our families,” says Tolley.