Federal government announces $500K for feasibility study of Winnipeg-area landfill search

The federal government says it will provide $500,000 to determine whether it’s possible to recover human remains from a landfill near Winnipeg, after months of calls to search there for the bodies of two victims of an alleged serial killer.

The money from Crown–Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada will go to the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, which has been overseeing efforts around a feasibility study on a search at the Prairie Green landfill. 

The funding will support the organization in working with families, experts and community organizations, along with other entities including various levels of Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments, the Winnipeg Police Service and RCMP, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller’s office said in a Wednesday news release.

Ottawa is also working with Indigenous leaders and organizations, provincial and municipal governments and police to offer support and healing services to families and communities, the release said. 

That money will provide much-needed resources to conduct a proper feasibility study of the landfill site, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said in the news release.

Calls to search the Winnipeg area landfill began after Winnipeg police announced in December that a man previously charged with first-degree murder in one woman’s death had since been charged in the killings of three others. 

Police said the remains of two of those women, Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran, were believed to have been taken to the Prairie Green site. At the time, police said they had determined it wouldn’t be feasible for them to search there.

That decision sparked calls from community members, including family members of the victims, for the landfill to be searched for the women’s bodies.

Weeks later, the federal government said it would cover the cost of a study on whether remains could be recovered through a search of the site. 

Last month, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said it had learned no garbage had been dumped in the targeted section of the landfill since June.

The partial remains of Rebecca Contois, the first victim whose death Jeremy Skibicki was charged in, were discovered at Winnipeg’s Brady Road landfill in June, after some of her remains were discovered near a North Kildonan apartment building a month earlier.

Police have not yet been able to identify or determine the location of the remains of the fourth victim, whom community leaders have named Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or Buffalo Woman. 

Skibicki’s lawyer said his client intends to plead not guilty on all four counts of first-degree murder. His next court date is scheduled for Thursday.