Family members and MMIWG advocates are in Ottawa calling for immediate action and resources to help find loved ones missing in Winnipeg.
“I’m absolutely heartbroken and utterly shocked at what is happening to our people,” said Cambria Harris. The 21-year-old is the daughter of Morgan Harris, one of four Indigenous women who police allege, was murdered by Jeremy Skibicki.
The 35-year-old is facing four charges of first-degree murder in the deaths of Harris, Rebecca Contois, Marcedes Myran, and Buffalo Woman.
Police believe the women were killed between March and May of 2022.
The remains of Morgan, 39, Marcedes Myran and Buffalo Woman are believed to be in the Prairie Green Landfill site.
Cambria said she met with investigators on Monday who put together a power point of the reasons why they won’t search the dump.
“I didn’t see one point on there, saying why they should, there wasn’t a single point and it was basically to say, ‘we failed you and we’re not going to do anything,’” said Cambria.
NDP MP Leah Gazan, who organized the news conference in the foyer of the House of Commons, said it’s a human rights and a life and death issue.
“We have had a national inquiry that was released in 2015, with a failure to act,” she said.
Chief Kyra Wilson of Long Plain First Nation, where both Harris and Myran were from, said the last few days have been extremely difficult.
“We have 231 calls to justice, we need searches, we need support and it needs to start now,” she said adding that when it comes to murdered or missing Indigenous women or girls, not much has been done.
“There’s been money identified for supports and searches and something needs to be done today.”
Marc Miller, minister of Crown Indigenous Relations said it was the first time meeting the family and he felt uncomfortable putting his back to them as he stood at the podium, “because the government has turned their backs on them for centuries.”
Miller said the work the government is called up to do is complex.
“It includes massive investments in education, housing,” he said. “Making sure we are holding provincial and municipal governments to account in searching for people the way they would do for non-indigenous people where they go missing and public outcry perhaps would be much greater, there’s no normalizing this way.
“What’s happening today, it is an absolute shame.”
Watch Leanne Sander’s story here on the police response to the search
In Winnipeg on Tuesday, the chief of police was defending the force’s decision not to search a landfill for two of the victims.
“I would be heartbroken and I would be angry,” said Danny Smyth when asked how he’d feel if it were his relatives.
Only the remains of Rebecca Contois have been located. The head of forensics for the police said that’s because the site at the city’s landfill site was isolated quickly with the help of GPS on the dump trucks.
“The debris in this site was as you’d sort of expect – it was above grade and it wasn’t compacted,” said Insp. Cam Mackid.
Harris and Myran, are believed to be at a second landfill site called Prairie Green. Police said the site is heavily compacted with tonnes of clay, animal waste and other debris that has been dumped there over months.
Kera Harris, Morgan’s other daughter who was on Parliament Hill, questioned how police could rule out further searches.
”These are human beings. How can you even fathom the idea to leave them there? These women are deserving of a proper resting place, not to be left alone in a landfill in the dead of winter,” she said.
“If you want to respect and honor them, stop making excuses as to why you can’t find them, You can’t and you are just refusing to.”
Kera also questioned why Winnipeg police weren’t asking for help nationwide.
Smyth said the decision not to search the site has nothing to do with resources.
The family and leadership will meet with Miller to discuss immediate action and supports needed.
Cambria Harris said her mother didn’t have a home when she passed, “so let’s pay her the respect that she deserves by finally giving her the respect that she deserves by finally giving her one, that’s not a resting place at the Prairie Green landfill and for these other women as well,” she said.
“I think it’s disgusting.”
On Monday, Miller told the House of Commons that he had been in touch with the mayor of Winnipeg about the murders. APTN News reached out to Miller’s office about the meeting but did not hear back by the time this article was published.