Advocates in Manitoba frustrated with lack of movement on landfill search

Ahead of Red Dress Day on Sunday, a time meant to raise awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), frustration is boiling over in Winnipeg.

“Why is it OK to leave Indigenous women’s remains in the landfill while non-Indigenous people are being searched for without a second hesitation?” said Cambria Harris, the daughter of Morgan Harris whose remains are believed to be in Prairie Green Landfill.

“What’s the difference?” she said.

Wednesday, a Saskatoon landfill search began following an investigation into the disappearance of Mackenzie Lee Trottier, who has been missing for over three years.

Click to play video: 'Saskatoon landfill search begins, Mackenzie Lee Trottier disappearance'

Saskatoon landfill search begins, Mackenzie Lee Trottier disappearance

In Winnipeg, calls to have Prairie Green Landfill searched for the remains of three Indigenous women, including Harris’ mother, Marcedes Myran, and Buffalo Woman, have been ongoing since spring of 2022.

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At that time, Winnipeg’s chief of police refused a search, saying too much time had passed since the remains were taken there.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs’ Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said that decision cost critical timing.

“It was a very hard journey to get to where we are today, and to be able to see how another province is doing — basically — the same work that we wanted to do from the get-go is kind of disheartening.”

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg police say identified victims in alleged serial murder case likely at landfill north of city'

Winnipeg police say identified victims in alleged serial murder case likely at landfill north of city

Harris is feeling about the same.

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“It leaves me feeling incredibly disheartened and frustrated,” she said. “It’s telling Indigenous women that they are less than worth looking for. It’s telling serial killers that it’s OK to dispose of women’s bodies in the landfill, and that nobody will search for them. (It) is telling Indigenous women that they are trash.”

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Merrick said, “all our women need to be found regardless of where they’re from or regardless of who they are. We just need to find them, and we just need closure for families.”

“We’re human beings, and that’s literally all we want to be treated as,” Harris said.

On Thursday, Harris spoke at a Red Dress Day event at the University of Manitoba, hoping to raise awareness of the MMIWG crisis.

Click to play video: 'Red Dress Day honours memory of MMIWG2S'

Red Dress Day honours memory of MMIWG2S

“This is something that strikes the heart of our Indigenous people and people across Turtle Island in Canada. This is an ongoing crisis,” she said.

Adele Perry, the director of the University of Manitoba’s Centre of Human Rights, said a combination of systemic issues often contributes to public apathy.

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“Colonialism, both of the past and of the present, racism, patriarchy, (and) sexism have come together to produce a context where Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people, have found themselves disproportionately coming to harm,” Perry said.

“We, as a society, have repeatedly shown ourselves kind of unable and unwilling, and often kind of a combination of both, to address those circumstances and to honour to those women and girls and two-spirited people, and their families,” she added.

“Without our women and without our children, we would simply and disturbingly be non-existent as a society,” Harris said.

A search of the landfill was promised by current Premier Wab Kinew as a part of his election campaign.

Click to play video: 'Justice for families at ‘top of mind’ for landfill search, Manitoba premier says'

Justice for families at ‘top of mind’ for landfill search, Manitoba premier says

In February, he announced he was confident the search would take place within the year. The province said there has been no updates regarding timelines, but noted it would keep watch over what happens in Saskatoon.

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One month later, the provincial and federal governments have committed a collective $40 million to find the remains of the slain women.

Meanwhile, alleged serial killer Jeremy Skibicki awaits a court ruling for the deaths of Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran, Rebecca Contois and Buffalo Woman.

“This fight doesn’t just aim to search the landfill. It has inspired and created waves and ripples across Turtle Island, where you will now see a new wave of grassroots advocates speak their own stories,” Harris said.

“I think that’s the whole point.”

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg trial of man accused of killing 4 women starts with bid to toss jury'

Winnipeg trial of man accused of killing 4 women starts with bid to toss jury

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