Grand chief calls for permanent closure of Winnipeg’s Brady Road landfill after woman’s body found
The leader of a First Nations advocacy group wants to see the Winnipeg landfill where the remains of two Indigenous women were found permanently shut down.
“I think given the circumstance, that it should be. It’s not an isolated issue,” Grand Chief Cathy Merrick of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said in a phone interview with The Canadian Press on Wednesday.
“I know there are lots of [Indigenous women] that have been missing throughout time, and I’m pretty sure that some of those women are in the Brady landfill.”
On Tuesday, the Winnipeg Police Service’s homicide unit said it started an investigation after staff at the Brady Road landfill in south Winnipeg found the body of 33-year-old Linda Mary Beardy on Monday.
Police have not said how they believe she died or when, but said Tuesday they consider her death suspicious, although it has not yet been classified a homicide.
The landfill has been closed as police investigate. The City of Winnipeg said contingency plans for garbage and recycling are in place.
Merrick said the city should look at opening a new landfill that would include measures to help with police investigations when situations like this occur.
“I know it’s not going to happen today, but that’s something that they need to look at as well.”
The assembly has called for the incorporation of new technologies at landfills, including screening and scanning of trucks with serial numbers, dates and times that coincide with the dumping of loads. It said landfills must also track routes and timelines.
“It’s shameful. We have to come out looking in landfills for our women,” Merrick said.
Merrick also spoke emotionally about the discovery at the landfill during the Assembly of First Nations’ special chiefs assembly in Ottawa on Wednesday.
“So much hurt is coming from my province,” she said. “That is not right for somebody to go dump one of our women in a garbage dump. We are not garbage.”
‘Our lives matter’
The City of Winnipeg said in a statement Wednesday night that it is not considering the permanent closure of the Brady Road landfill. It said it is the only municipally owned and operated landfill in the capital region, and is the largest in the area.
Garbage collection vehicles are equipped with GPS devices that allow for the tracking of specific loads and where materials are being deposited within the landfill, the city said. Staff are also trained to report any suspicious materials to the police.
City Coun. Markus Chambers said the discovery of Beardy’s body, following the discovery of another First Nation woman’s remains at the same landfill last year, point to the “upstream work” the city needs to do to support Indigenous communities.
“They’re ending up at landfills. They’re not happening at landfills,” Chambers said. “We’ve got to be able to prevent them or find a way to mitigate against these occurrences happening where they’re ending up in the landfill.”
Chambers added more support is needed for women and girls who come to the city from Indigenous communities, including educating people about the challenges of living in an urban setting.
Merrick also told the special chiefs assembly that First Nations women don’t get the support they need when they move from their communities into urban centres.
First Nation leaders have sought government support for those women, as well as those who’ve gone missing, for too long and cannot afford to wait any longer, she said.
“We have to — as the assembly here — make that movement and make sure the government listens to us and hears what we have to say,” said Merrick.
“Our lives matter.”
‘Unconscionable violence’: PM
Beardy was a mother and a member of Lake St. Martin First Nation but lived in Winnipeg at the time of her death. Merrick was told no one had heard from the young mother for about a week before her remains were found.
Police have said they do not believe her case is linked to the killing of Rebecca Contois, whose partial remains were found at the Brady Road landfill last June, or the deaths of three other Indigenous women — all four of whom police allege were killed by the same man.
In December, police said they believe the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran were taken to the Prairie Green landfill — a privately run landfill north of Winnipeg — but they have not been found.
Police believe Contois, Harris, Myran and a fourth woman — who has not yet been identified, but whom community members have named Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or Buffalo Woman — were killed by Jeremy Skibicki. He has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of all four women.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his condolences to Beardy’s family and the larger Indigenous community. The federal government needs to do more to end the epidemic of violence that Indigenous women and girls face, he said.
Trudeau said it’s heartbreaking that discoveries like these continue to happen.
“My heart goes out to the community in Winnipeg and to the families of the woman who was … left in this way,” he said.
“We will continue to be there with the community as it grieves, but we will also continue to be there to put an end to this unconscionable violence.”
The prime minister added his Liberal government has made significant strides in countering gender-based violence, but there’s more it could be doing.
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the discovery highlights the need to implement the 231 calls for justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“Women are dying, lives are being taken, and we have to take it seriously,” Singh said.
WATCH | Winnipeg police announce discovery of Linda Mary Beardy’s body:
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller has praised workers at the Brady landfill for their “heightened vigilance” in finding Beardy’s remains.
Miller also said a study into the feasibility of searching the Prairie Green landfill for the remains of Harris and Myran should be completed in the coming weeks. The federal government put up $500,000 in February for the study.
An Indigenous-led committee headed by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said it is confident the study will “deem these search and recovery efforts feasible.”
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