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Feds will fund feasibility study into landfill searches for missing women, Winnipeg mayor says


WARNING: The details in this article may be disturbing to some viewers. Discretion is advised.

The federal government will support an Indigenous-led study looking into the feasibility of searching Winnipeg-area landfills for the remains of missing women, the city’s mayor announced Thursday.

Scott Gillingham, the mayor of Winnipeg, told a city council meeting he received confirmation Wednesday afternoon from Marc Miller, the federal minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.

“The federal government will fund a feasibility study for a landfill recovery search,” Gillingham told the meeting. “And I know that the City of Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Police Service will participate in that process.”

“I hope that this news will bring some measure of relief to the families and to the people of Winnipeg as well.”

Speaking on CTV News Channel's Power Play, Miller said he and the federal government are working with officials, Indigenous communities and the families.

"This will not be something that will be done in a short period of time. It'll take a lot of time to stage things out and to work at all times with the families to make sure they are being respected and that their wishes are being respected and a search that is culturally sensitive and appropriate is done to see what the next steps are in the process," said Miller.

He added that he is a little hopeful that the ball is rolling in the right direction.

"The proof will in the next steps and how that's rolled out. In this country, too often, Indigenous women have been treated like trash and in this case, a very literal sense of it and no one wants to see those remains in that location. But again, it will be something the family decides, how to commemorate, how to honour and how to even get a small modicum of closure."

Grand Chief Cathy Merrick of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said Wednesday that a committee working on putting together the study has been formed, including a consultant with expertise in forensics hired by Long Plain First Nation, the Chief of Long Plain First Nation Kyra Wilson, a forensic anthropologist and members of the AMC and Winnipeg police.

The calls to search Prairie Green Landfill north of Winnipeg in the R.M. of Rosser for homicide victims Marcedes Myran, 26, and Morgan Harris, 39, have been growing louder ever since the WPS said earlier this month a search would likely be unsuccessful. Officers said it’s due to the time that has passed since the women’s remains are believed to have been taken there after they were allegedly killed by the same man this past spring.

Police announced earlier this month that 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 while next steps are discussed regarding a search of the facility.

Over the past two days, Merrick and Long Plain Chief Wilson have met with Gillingham and Danny Smyth, the Chief of the Winnipeg Police Service.

Wilson said apologies were made by Smyth during the meeting.

Demonstrators gather outside of Winnipeg City Hall to demand landfill searches for the bodies of missing women on Dec. 15, 2022. (CTV News Photo Jamie Dowsett)

Hours after the announcement made by Gillingham that the feds will fund the feasibility study, demonstrators converged on Winnipeg City Hall calling on the city to close Brady Road Landfill ahead of any search for other missing Indigenous women.

“We want it shut down,” said Melissa Normand, Harris’s cousin. “Shutting down Prairie Green is only half of the job. We know that there’s other women at Brady, so why are we still allowing dumping to be going on over there? Why are we still allowing our city to throw garbage on our women?”

Demonstrators have been blocking access to the landfill and plan to continue doing so until it’s shut down.

“I’ll go there every single day,” Normand said.

Harris’s daughter Elle, 18, told reporters they attended the protest outside city hall because searches should be conducted.

“It’s really messed up,” Elle said. “I don’t think it’s right how they’re not searching for these women’s bodies, especially one of them being my mom. We all want to have funerals. We want the closure which we can’t get because nobody’s looking for them.”

“I know I for sure want a funeral but nobody else wants it without her body.”

Sue Caribou, the aunt of Tanya Nepinak who went missing in 2011, also wants Brady searched. Police searched the landfill for Nepinak in 2012 but she wasn’t found.

“We don’t want the landfills to start being unmarked graves for our people,” Caribou said. “Our people don’t belong in the dump.”

Gillingham said he needs to continue to have discussions with the committee on the scope of the study but he said if City of Winnipeg landfills are searched, he hopes any closures are limited to certain areas within the landfill.

“I’m looking for us to collectively find a way to isolate the area in question or areas in question and find a way to continue landfill operations, perhaps on another part of the site that would not in any way make problematic, a search,” Gillingham said.

“I’m working to make sure our operations can continue, albeit maybe on another part of the site but those are discussions that have yet to be had in full with water and waste and with the committee members as well.” 


There is a support line available for those impacted by missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ2S+ people: 1-844-413-6649.

Additional mental-health and community-based emotional support and cultural services are also available through the federal government. Top Stories

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