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Family of homicide victim files human rights complaints over Manitoba election ads, lack of landfill search

The family of a woman alleged to have been slain by a Winnipeg serial killer has filed a pair of complaints to the Human Rights Commission of Manitoba, alleging discrimination against Indigenous women, girls, 2SLGSBTQQIA+ people and their families.

The family of Morgan Harris, including her daughter Cambria, filed the complaints last week, one against the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba, and a second against the Manitoba government.

In December 2022, Jeremy Skibicki was charged with the murder of Rebecca Contois, whose partial remains have been found in the Brady Landfill.

He was then charged with first-degree murder in connections with the deaths of Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran, and an unidentified woman given the name, Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe or Buffalo Woman by local Indigenous leaders. Their remains are believed to be in the Prairie Green Landfill outside of Winnipeg.

He has pleaded not-guilty in November 2023 and none of the charges against Skibicki have been proven in court.

The decision to conduct a search of the Prairie Green Landfill for the women’s remains prompted debate, controversy and was a key topic during the 2023 election. The Progressive Conservatives and former premier Heather Stefanson cited safety reasons as to why they wouldn’t do a landfill search.

The human rights complaint against the Progressive Conservatives alleges an advertisement campaign run by the party was discriminatory against Indigenous people. Those advertisements included the phrase “Stand firm against the $184 million landfill dig,” and “For health and safety reasons, the answer on the landfill dig just has to be no.”

“Despite the Feasibility Report that detailed clear risk mitigation strategies that can be undertaken to reasonably protect the safety of workers, the Progressive Conservative Party actively campaigned on its opposition to searching the landfill for the remains of missing and murdered Indigenous women,” the statement reads. “This reflects a long-standing discriminatory attitude that the lives of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people are less valuable than other lives.”

The complaint also alleges the party put money into the campaign advertisements that perpetuate discrimination, rather than taking steps to end discrimination.

“(Stefanson) was using my mother’s death to score political points and play off my family’s grief, and that’s not right,” Cambria said.

The complaint against the province said it discriminates against Indigenous women, girls, 2SLGBTQQIA+ people and their families by not making the funds and resources available for a landfill search.

“Whether it was the previous or current government, the landfill search still stays the same,” Cambria said. “It really hasn’t moved in terms of getting something started.”

The NDP government said it is committed to a search, and work is ongoing.

“There are lots of discussions that are occurring with different folks, ministers, federally and provincially,” said Nahanni Fontaine, Minister of Families, during an announcement in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

Once a complaint is filed, the Human Rights Commission will decide if the complaint has merit or should be dismissed.

CTV News Winnipeg has reached out to the PCs for comment, but have not heard back.

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