Home » The Canadian Press » Ottawa, Manitoba Commit $20M Each to Landfill Search for Remains of Slain Women

Ottawa, Manitoba Commit $20M Each to Landfill Search for Remains of Slain Women

March 22, 2024 5:05 PM | The Canadian Press

By Brittany Hobson and Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

Cathy Merrick - Cambria Harris

Cambria Harris, daughter of Morgan Harris, right, who is believed to be buried in a landfill outside Winnipeg, and Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Cathy Merrick, speak during a press conference in Winnipeg, Friday, March 22, 2024. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

WINNIPEG — Families of two slain First Nations women received word Friday that the federal and Manitoba governments are putting up $20 million each to help search a landfill for the women’s remains.

“I’m very grateful for these commitments going forward … and I pray that one day we will see justice,” Cambria Harris, whose mother Morgan Harris is one of four women alleged to have been killed by Jeremy Skibicki.

The government money is to go toward a search of the privately owned Prairie Green landfill north of Winnipeg, where the remains of Harris and Marcedes Myran are believed to have been taken almost two years ago.

Skibicki is also charged with killing Rebecca Contois, whose partial remains were found in a different landfill, and an unidentified woman Indigenous leaders have named Buffalo Woman. Her remains have not been found.

“We’re glad to be able to move forward with the funds necessary to search every cubic metre of the relevant space,” Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew said in a written statement.

“While we don’t know if the search will be successful, we have to try.”

The federal government remains “committed as we work with all partners towards an approach that will bring closure and healing for the families and community members,” the office of Gary Anandasangaree, federal minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, said in an email.

Police in 2022 rejected the idea of a search, in part because of the potential danger from toxic substances and the sheer volume of material at the landfill.

Manitoba’s former Progressive Conservative government also deemed a search too risky. The Tories took out advertisements during October’s provincial election campaign touting their decision to “stand firm” against calls for a search

The women’s families and supporters commissioned two reports on the feasibility of a search, which has been estimated to cost $90 million if completed within a year. The second, more comprehensive report said a search could pose a major health hazard because the landfill contains asbestos.

Asbestos can cause cancer if ingested, and the report said bags containing the substance could break during an excavation allowing it to become airborne. The report laid out precautions, including having full protective gear with respirators for workers and keeping the area wet to prevent asbestos from getting into the air.

The leader of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said she hopes the governments will fund whatever search efforts may be needed.

“We don’t want to go back and back again to ask that this work be complete,” Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said.

Skibicki’s trial is scheduled to start in April.

In addition to the search funding, the Manitoba and federal governments have offered money for mental health supports for the families.

CP - The Canadian Press

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