First Nations leaders in Manitoba are calling for the resignation of Winnipeg’s police chief after the force decided not to search a landfill for the remains of two Indigenous women.
Police Chief Danny Smyth said this week that it’s believed the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran are in a landfill outside the city, but too much time has passed and too much garbage has been disposed of to make the search feasible.
Long Plain First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson said failing to search for the women’s remains does not instill a sense of public safety in the community.
She was joined by several other First Nations leaders in Manitoba in calling for Smyth to step down immediately so action can be taken to search the landfill.
“This is a very strong message from our leadership that you need to engage with our communities,” Wilson said during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday.
“The last press conference that you held, you said that you had a good relationship with the Indigenous community. Well, this is me saying that we don’t have a good relationship right now.”
Jeremy Skibicki, 35, is facing charges of first-degree murder in the killings of Harris, Myran, Rebecca Contois and a woman police and media are calling Buffalo Woman.
Police believe the four women were killed in the spring, although investigators have so far only located Contois’s body.
Her partial remains were found in a garbage bin in the city and in a separate landfill in the spring.
Harris’s family has joined in the calls for Smyth to resign.
Kera Harris said she is fed up with police inaction in finding her mother’s remains. She added that if the police chief can’t get the search done, he should step down and give someone else the opportunity to provide the family with an appropriate resolution.
“We are all trying to reach a reasonable compromise, but we have yet to receive words of acknowledgment, response nor agreements,” she said Thursday. “Not only have you refused to search these landfills, you have presented no alternative routes for how we can give these women peace.”
Manitoba’s Opposition NDP has called for tighter rules and more thorough record-keeping to help prevent cases where human remains are lost in landfills so victims’ families aren’t left dealing with an added layer of grief.
Wilson said the lack of a search sends a message to the public that Indigenous women’s lives do not matter.
Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who spoke at an Assembly of First Nations gathering in Ottawa, said it’s appalling the family has to beg the police to search the landfill.
“They should just do it,” Singh said.
“The fact that you have to demand that these people in positions of power do their job just really highlights that they don’t value Indigenous lives, so that’s really hurtful and really wrong.”