By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Police and municipal crews removed a blockade Tuesday at a Winnipeg landfill where protesters had barricaded a road for almost two weeks to demand a search for the remains of Indigenous women.
Workers with front-end loaders and other machinery removed wood planks and other material that had blocked the road to the Brady Road landfill. There were no arrests and the removal went smoothly.
“I interacted with the leader of the group and we gained an understanding of what was going to happen today,” Insp. Gord Spado of the Winnipeg Police Service said.
“The protesters removed things they wanted to keep off the roadway and that allowed the city to come in and assist us in removing the material that was still blocking the road.”
Police were enforcing a temporary court injunction the city obtained Friday, which forbids the blocking of the road, but allows protesters to maintain a camp they have kept beside the roadway for several months.
The blockade at the city-owned landfill was set up on July 6 after Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said the province would not search the privately owned Prairie Green Landfill, north of the city, for the remains of two slain Indigenous women.
Jeremy Skibicki has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of four women, including Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran, whose remains are believed to be at Prairie Green.
He has also been charged in the death of Rebecca Contois, whose partial remains were found last year at Brady Road, and an unidentified woman Indigenous leaders are calling Buffalo Woman, whose remains have not been found.
One of the protesters said Tuesday that pressure tactics will continue.
“This isn’t over yet, you can bet on that,” Harrison Powder said after the blockade was taken down.
“We’ll blockade railways. We’ll blockade highways. We’ll do whatever we have to do to keep this in the news, to keep this cause alive.”
Joseph Munro, one of the organizers, said a second camp will be set up outside the Canadian Museum For Human Rights in downtown Winnipeg. A museum spokesperson said talks were underway on the matter.
The protesters have said they also want the Brady Road landfill searched. They pointed to an unsuccessful attempt 11 years ago to find the remains of Tanya Nepinak at the facility, and said the remains of other Indigenous women may be there as well.
The injunction was granted after a city lawyer argued in court the blockade was causing environmental and safety risks.
Spado said emotions were high Friday, so police waited to act on the court order.
The Manitoba and federal governments have been sparring over the landfill search.
Stefanson cited safety risks as her main reason for opposing a search of the Prairie Green landfill. She pointed to a federally funded study that said a search could cost up to $184 million, expose workers to toxic material and have no guarantee of success.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller criticized the province for shirking its responsibilities because it is responsible for landfills, while Stefanson accused Miller of politicizing a tragedy.
Experts consulted for the study joined Indigenous leaders and the families of the women Monday, saying risks could be mitigated and the search could be done safely.
— With files from Kelly Geraldine Malone in Saskatoon