First Nations leaders are taking matters into their own hands in an effort to initiate and conduct a search of a Winnipeg-area landfill for two Indigenous women killed by an alleged serial killer.
A committee is being formed to do a feasibility study on finding homicide victims Marcedes Myran, 26, and Morgan Harris, 39, at Prairie Green Landfill north of the city.
Winnipeg police believe the two women were taken there this past spring after being killed by the same man but previously declined to search it because they don’t think they’d be able to find their remains.
Over the past two days Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Cathy Merrick and Long Plain First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson have met with Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham and Danny Smyth, the Chief of the Winnipeg Police Service.
Both Wilson and Merrick said work is underway to determine what it would take to search the landfill but they said such an effort would require a broad range of support, including from police.
Harris and Myran were both from Long Plain originally and Wilson said the focus now is on conducting a feasibility study on what it would take to search the landfill.
“I am hopeful that we can move forward in a good way and that we can work together to bring closure for these families,” Wilson said in an interview Wednesday.
Wilson said while efforts are being led by Indigenous communities they would require support from Winnipeg police and possibly RCMP.
Grand Chief Merrick said a committee is being formed to identify next steps before approaching the federal government.
“We just want to move forward and be able to do the work and be able to bring our women home,” Merrick said in an interview. “I’m very optimistic they’re going to be able to give support and to be able to fund the feasibility study.”
In a statement, the Winnipeg Police Service said Chief Smyth is supportive of the collaborative efforts led by Grand Chief Merrick on the feasibility of a recovery search.
It’s a move Merrick said was prompted, in part, by comments made by the chair of the Winnipeg Police Board who stated Monday it was up to the Indigenous community to advocate for a search.
“We’ve been told by the Winnipeg Police Board chairman, Markus Chambers, that Indigenous people are on their own on this so we didn’t take it lightly,” Merrick said.
Chambers issued a statement on Wednesday apologizing for any harmful impact his words may have had on a community still grieving.
Police announced earlier this month officers charged Jeremy Skibicki, 35, with three additional counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Myran, Harris and a fourth woman given the name Buffalo Woman.
Skibicki was previously charged with first-degree murder in May in the death of Rebecca Contois, 24, whose partial remains were found in a garbage bin near an apartment building on Edison Avenue. That led to a search of Brady Road Landfill south of the city where human remains located by police were identified as Contois.
Operations at Prairie Green Landfill, where police believe Myran and Harris are, have been put on pause as Indigenous communities continue to push for a search of the facility.
Families of the two women, meantime, continue to wait for answers.
“We shouldn’t have to put up this fight either, this is an opportunity to come together and I hope we search,” said Cambria Harris, one of Morgan Harris’s daughters, who’s become a vocal advocate for a search of the landfill amid grieving the loss of her mother.
Harris just hopes the end result is a search for her mother’s remains, something she plans to continue fighting for.
“I’m not going to stop,” she said. “I’m not going to stop putting up this fight. I’m going to continue advocating until this gets addressed.”
AMC Grand Chief Merrick said the feasibility study would also examine searching Brady Road Landfill for the remains of Tanya Nepinak, who’s been missing since 2011. Winnipeg police searched for her at that landfill back in 2012 but she wasn’t found.
Merrick said members of the committee plan to meet Thursday afternoon to further discuss the study and figure out who else needs to take part.
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