Elder Geraldine Shingoose smudges a red dress mural painted on the road to the Brady landfill in Winnipeg where a blockade stood moments before.
“It breaks my heart today. They just come in and sweep everything away but they didn’t sweep away all our prayers they didn’t sweep away our voices and our way. We’re still going to carry on,” said Shingoose.
The city removed the blockade Tuesday morning in response to an injunction order that was granted last week.
Before allowing the city to sweep up debris from the blockade Shingoose held a pipe ceremony to bring closure.
“We need to continue their voice, bring their voice because they want to go home. They want their families to take them home and rest. They deserve a proper burial,” she said.
The blockade at the city-owned landfill was set up on July 6 after Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said the province would not search the privately owned Prairie Green Landfill, north of the city, for the remains of two slain Indigenous women.
Inspector Gord Spado with Winnipeg police says it was done in a peaceful way.
“The protestors removed things they wanted to keep off of the roadway and that allowed the city to move in and assist us in removing the material that was still blocking the road,” said Spado.
Jeremy Skibicki has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of four women, including Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran, whose remains are believed to be at Prairie Green.
He has also been charged in the death of Rebecca Contois, whose partial remains were found last year at Brady Road, and an unidentified woman Indigenous leaders are calling Buffalo Woman, whose remains have not been found.
Joseph Munro, one of the organizers, said a second camp will be set up outside the Canadian Museum For Human Rights in downtown Winnipeg. A museum spokesperson said talks were underway on the matter.
The protesters have said they also want the Brady Road landfill searched. They pointed to an unsuccessful attempt 11 years ago to find the remains of Tanya Nepinak at the facility, and said the remains of other Indigenous women may be there as well.
The injunction was granted after a city lawyer argued in court the blockade was causing environmental and safety risks.
Spado said emotions were high Friday, so police waited to act on the court order.
The Manitoba and federal governments have been sparring over the landfill search.
Stefanson cited safety risks as her main reason for opposing a search of the Prairie Green landfill. She pointed to a federally funded study that said a search could cost up to $184 million, expose workers to toxic material and have no guarantee of success.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller criticized the province for shirking its responsibilities because it is responsible for landfills, while Stefanson accused Miller of politicizing a tragedy.
Experts consulted for the study joined Indigenous leaders and the families of the women Monday, saying risks could be mitigated and the search could be done safely.
Those calling for a search say it isn’t over.
Derek Nepinak is chief of Pine Creek First Nation and a cousin to Tanya Nepinak whose remains may also be in the Brady landfill.
She went missing in 2011. Police believe an alleged serial killer killed her.
“For a very long time we’ve been witnessing our loved ones ending up in this dump and it’s heartbreaking and it’s tragic and often times we don’t have the words to even speak about the violence we witness in our lives day to day,” said Nepinak.
A camp called Camp Morgan will remain standing near the Brady landfill.
With files from the Canadian Press