By Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — The families of two First Nations women whose remains are believed to be in a Winnipeg-area landfill took to the steps of Manitoba’s legislature Wednesday to deliver one message to the federal and provincial governments.
They’re urging both orders of government to work together and search the Prairie Green Landfill for Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran.
“We’re gonna keep coming back until our women are brought home,” Melissa Normand, a cousin of Harris, told a rally organized by the women’s families.
Dozens of supporters stood by as the families shared their frustration and anger.
“Please go get my girl,” Donna Bartlett, Myran’s grandmother, whispered harshly into a microphone.
One person held a sign that said, “Stop wasting time. The landfill is not a grave,” while others said, “No more stolen sisters.”
Long Plain First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson said families are tired of chasing governments to get support.
“This is the first of the many reminders,” Wilson said. “Until this work gets done, we’re going to get louder and louder.”
A recent feasibility study, completed by an Indigenous-led committee and funded by the federal government, estimated it could take up to three years and cost $184 million to search the landfill for the remains of Harris and Myran. Family members are pushing for the search to go ahead to bring peace and closure.
It’s not clear who would fund the search, but families say both governments have a role to play.
Since the study was completed last month, families and Indigenous leaders have engaged in what they call a game of “political yo-yo.”
Wilson said the federal government has sat down with the families and expressed support in searching the landfill, but hung the onus on the province.
“I don’t understand why we need to actually go back and forth from the federal government and the provincial government,” Wilson said.
“We shouldn’t be jumping through all of these hoops to get that support.”
It should not be up to families to navigate bureaucratic processes, she added.
The office of Marc Miller, minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, said it is “diligently” reviewing the study.
Regarding next steps, the office said in a email that it is working with Indigenous leaders and organizations as well as provincial governments to offer “support and healing services to families and communities during this difficult time.”
A spokesperson said Ottawa has been in contact with the province, but did not elaborate on the subject of those conversations.
The province said it is taking time to review the feasibility report and recommendations.
“We continue to acknowledge the anguish of the families and our hearts go out to all of them,” a spokesperson for the department of Indigenous Reconciliation and Northern Relations said in an email.
The spokesperson added a meeting between the minister, Premier Heather Stefanson, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and Wilson is scheduled for next month.
Jeremy Skibicki has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Rebecca Contois, whose remains were found in another landfill, Harris, Myran and an unidentified woman Indigenous leaders have named Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or Buffalo Woman. Police have also not found her remains.
— With files from Steve Lambert