First Nations leaders and activists say they’re in shock after another First Nations woman was discovered at Winnipeg’s city dump.
The Brady landfill in the southern area of the city is notorious for the discoveries of First Nations women who have been killed and discarded there.
The latest is Linda Mary Beardy, 33, is from Lake St. Martin First Nation and the mother of four young children, who was discovered on April 3. Police believe she wasn’t in the dump for long before being found.
“When something like this happens to our community, it brings up old scars, and old traumas,” said Cambria Harris whose mother Morgan Harris is believed to be buried at a different dump north of Winnipeg. “And that’s what happens over and over again and nothing changes.”
First Nations organizations have been releasing statements about the discovery throughout the week.
“Sometimes there really are no words. And that’s just it, they’re words. How many times do we have to go through this before we see real change?” asked Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakinak Grand Chief Garrison Settee in an emailed statement.
“I feel for them as a grandmother, as a mother, and her leaving her children, and it’s such a painful experience for the families and for the nation,” said Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Cathy Merrick on Wednesday.
In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government needs to do more to end the epidemic of violence that Indigenous women and girls face after police found the body of another First Nations woman in a landfill this week.
Trudeau says it’s heartbreaking that discoveries like these continue to happen.
The prime minister says his Liberal government has made significant strides in countering gender-based violence, but there’s more it can be doing.
“My heart goes out to the community in Winnipeg and to the families of the woman who was … left in this way,” Trudeau told reporters Wednesday.
“We will continue to be there with the community as it grieves, but we will also continue to be there to put an end to this unconscionable violence.”
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But according to the Native Women’s Association of Canada, Trudeau’s government could be doing more including implementing the 231 calls for justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“The sad fact is that Indigenous women, girls, Two Spirt, transgender and gender-diverse people are being murdered and going missing with horrific regularity and at disproportionate rates right across our country,” said CEO Lynn Groulx in a statement issued on Wednesday. “Year after year, we have called upon the federal government to step up and put the resources necessary into ending the slaying of our sisters, mothers, daughters and aunties. But every year we are met with words but no actions.
“This latest discovery underlines (again) why the government needs to step up its response to this genocide. We need the funding necessary to resource our front-line organizations in each province and we need to the resources necessary to build our healing lodges and safe spaces.”
The Nishinawbe Aski Nation is demanding that Trudeau implement the calls for justice.
“It has been more than four years since the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls documented the horrific violence that Indigenous women and girls face on a daily basis,” said NAN Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum. “A lot of work has gone into developing the priorities and actions needed to support the unique needs for safety and healing for the women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people in First Nation communities, but little action has been taken.
“In Thunder Bay alone there are 25 MMIWG cases, some of which are decades old. These cold cases require competent investigations to be conducted immediately.”
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the discovery highlights the need to implement the 231 calls for justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“Women are dying, lives are being taken and we have to take it seriously,” Singh said.
The federal Crown-Indigenous Relations minister has praised workers at the city-run Brady landfill for their “heightened vigilance” in finding Beardy’s remains.
Marc Miller also said a study into the feasibility of searching the Prairie Green landfill for the remains of Harris and Marcedes Myran should be completed in the coming weeks.
The federal government put up $500,000 in February for the study into a potential search landfill.
An Indigenous-led committee headed by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said Tuesday the study is expected to be completed in four to six weeks. The organization added it is confident the study will “deem these search and recovery efforts feasible.”
Police say they do not believe Beardy is linked to the killing of Rebecca Contois, whose remains were found in the Brady dump last year, or the killings of three other women.
Police have said they believe the remains of Morgan Harris and Myran are in a different, privately run Prairie Green landfill north of Winnipeg, but they have not been found.
Jeremy Skibicki has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Contois, Harris and Myran – all First Nations women, as well as an unidentified woman Indigenous leaders have named Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or Buffalo Woman. Police have also not located her remains.
The Brady landfill is closed indefinitely.
The city said contingency plans for garbage and recycling are in place, and workers are trying to maintain these services without disruption during the closure.