‘We’ve lost the window’ to search landfill this summer, says Crown-Indigenous Relations minister

Marc Miller calls the Manitoba government’s decision not to search “heartless.”

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller weighed in Wednesday on the escalating tensions at a Winnipeg landfill, as family members of slain Indigenous women went to court to oppose a City of Winnipeg application for an injunction to dismantle a blockade on the road to the landfill.

The demonstrators, including family members of one of the victims whose remains are believed to be in a landfill, received a copy of the city’s affidavit in support of the application.

The affidavit says the city will suffer significant environmental, health and safety risks if the landfill isn’t allowed to operate, and lose up to $ 1.5 million dollars a day in revenue.

The affidavit further claims the city will “suffer irreparable harm” if an injunction is not granted.


The blockade went up seven days ago after Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said her government would not participate in a search for the remains citing health and safety risks to provincial personnel.

But Miller was more sympathetic.

“The women that are protesting at the landfill are the product of a failed child and family services,” Miller told Manitoba Indigenous leaders attending the Assembly of First Nations annual meeting in Halifax.

“They came out of care and that’s the reality – and sadly, their mothers ended up dead in the most unsghtly of locations, in a garbage dump.”

Miller seemed critical of the premier’s handling of the matter.

“This has been dealt with in a very heartless way, quite frankly, and we do absolutely have to try, as a federal government,” he told the Manitoba chiefs.

“In this space, jurisdiction is a poisonous word that perpetuates the trauma that is levelled on your women and children. But, I think, the reaction that we have seen from our partner in Manitoba, is one that makes any decision this summer, logistically impossible.”

Miller went on to say it may be too late to do a search this summer.

“What is shitty is we’ve lost the window in this summer to get something done and to get down to business, and actually have a productive working relationship as to how this happens. It’s going to be tricky,” Miller added.

Stands by decision

Stefanson has been hosting her provincial counterparts in Winnipeg this week and said Wednesday she stands by her decision.

Families and supporters have been demanding two landfills – the city’s Brady Road landfill and the private Prairie Green landfill – be searched since a Winnipeg man was charged in connection with the deaths of four Indigenous women last year.

A federally funded feasibility study determined it is possible to do a search but it would cost as much as $184 million and take up to three years.

The families and supporters have continued to maintain a demonstration camp at the Brady landfill that has become a symbol of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Family spokesperson Robyn Dagg Johnston attended the injunction motion on behalf of the families on Wednesday.

A lawyer

She said she and Long Plain First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson are looking for a lawyer to defend demonstrsators who face the threat of removal if an injunction is granted when the hearing resumes at noon on Thursday.

The judge hearing the case gave the families time to find a lawyer.

“It’s scary,” Dagg Johnston said. “It’s not right, it’s not fair. We’re peaceful people, we don’t hurt people, we allow anyone to come into our camp.”

“They are who’s right, right now.  They’re right and they are standing up for all of us,” she added.

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