The federal government announced Wednesday it is providing $500,000 to the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) for a study on whether it’s feasible to search a private landfill outside of Winnipeg.
“The funding will support the AMC in collaborating with families and survivors; a variety of experts; Indigenous governments, partners, communities and grassroots organizations; as well as with federal, provincial and municipal governments; and other entities, such as the Winnipeg Police Service and the RCMP, to complete this feasibility study,” said the statement from Crown-Indigenous relations.
The feds first announced in December they would fund a study into the feasibility of searching for the remains of two First Nations women – Morgan Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26 – who were allegedly killed by a Winnipeg man. Winnipeg police arrested the man in November.
The Prairie Green Landfill is privately owned and operates about 20 km north of Winnipeg.
“The Landfill Search Feasibility Study Committee appreciates the public and financial support of Minister Marc Miller, Crown–Indigenous Relations,” said Cathy Merrick, grand chief of the AMC in the government statement. “This funding will provide much needed resources to conduct a proper feasibility study for Prairie Green Landfill.
“We anticipate that the work ahead will be emotionally and spiritually demanding for all involved, and as we continue to move forward at an expedient pace, we remind all those affected by this tragedy to ensure they are accessing the supports available.”
Winnipeg police arrested Jeremy Skibicki in May 2022 and charged him with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Rebecca Contois, 24, whose partial remains were found in Winnipeg’s Brady landfill site.
Police at the time said they had reason to believe there could be more victims.
Fast forward to December 2022, and police announce Skibicki is charged with three more counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Harris, Myran, and a fourth unidentified woman Indigenous leaders have named Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe or Buffalo Woman.
Skibicki, who remains in custody, has said he is not guilty.
Police had told the families and reporters that searching Prairie Green wasn’t feasible because too much time has passed and too much garbage has been disposed of at the site.
Indigenous leaders and advocates called on police to do a search anyway and said police Chief Danny Smyth should step down.
Cambria Harris, the daughter of Morgan Harris, said on Facebook that searching the Prairie Green site isn’t enough.
“We are still not done, for we are fighting to get a study done on the Brady Landfill to retrieve remains of our loved ones and anyone else who may be there,” she wrote. “Camp Morgan isn’t going anywhere.”
Camp Morgan is an Indigenous-led blockade that went up outside the city’s Brady landfill site to pressure politicians and police into conducting another search.
According to Statistics Canada, at least 11 Indigenous women were murdered in Winnipeg in 2022.