The grief-stricken families of two First Nations women, whose mortal remains are suspected to be buried within the confines of a private landfill in Prairie Green, north of Winnipeg, report a profound sense of disappointment following a disheartening meeting with a Liberal cabinet minister in Ottawa. The families of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran have been fervently advocating for federal and provincial leadership to finance an extensive search endeavour.
The relatives, hailing from Manitoba, instilled their hope in Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Gary Anandasangaree to provide them with confirmation on the government’s funding for the search during the meeting. However, Cambria Harris, Morgan’s daughter, vehemently denounced the encounter as retraumatizing and shared that the government has not yet committed to providing aid.
Cambria did not mince her words, stating, “It was clear today — the precedent was set — that reconciliation is dead.”
Jeremy Skibicki is criminally charged with the first-degree murders of both Harris, Myran and two other individuals – Rebecca Contois and an anonymous Indigenous female figure referred to as Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe or Buffalo Woman. The partial remains of Contois were discovered in a separate landfill the previous year.
Various human rights organizations, including Amnesty International Canada, alongside families and supporters, observed the International Day of Action to Search the Landfills, a protest to pressure authorities to enact action. Demonstrations were organized in a minimum of 17 cities, inclusive of Winnipeg.
The decision by Minister Anandasangaree to arrange a meeting with grieving families and their advocates on this day was deemed bitterly ironic and “vile” by Cambria Harris. She further reiterated the commitment of the community, asserting their readiness to participate in a grassroots search for their dear ones.
Long Plain First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson, another attendee, emphasised the federal government’s moral and official obligations to collaborate with the First Nations, implying possible legal action if they continue to shun their responsibilities.
The minister was further criticized for his hesitations regarding the landfill’s feasibility study, and a subsequent statement he issued, while acknowledging the pressing issue, failed to concretely commit to the search.
This federally financed feasibility study concluded that despite potential health hazards such as toxic materials and asbestos to the excavators, the landfill search was indeed possible. An Indigenous-led committee liaised with experts on the appropriate landfill mining methods, even involving search consultants from the grim investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton’s pig farm in British Columbia.
The search operation’s estimated cost of $184 million may seem steep, with no certain outcome even after up to three years of relentless effort. However, foregoing the process may inadvertently cause further emotional damage for the bereaved families.
Family members, like Jordan Myran, sister to Marcedes, had to bear the painful need to remind politicians that their missing loved ones are human, subjects worthy of their care and attention. The stinging fact that she has had to, for the last 10 months, plead with political figures to fund a dignified farewell for her sister is hard to fathom.
Echoing the pleas for action, a crowd gathered at the Manitoba legislature, their powerful visual display of red and ribbon skirts accompanying the signs imploring politicians to authorize a landfill search. The province’s premier, however, remained unmoved, citing concerns about possible risks to those engaged in the search.