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'It can be done safely': Experts say method for landfill search has been successful in the past


A panel of forensic experts brought together by Manitoba's Indigenous leaders say a search of a landfill near Winnipeg for the remains of two Indigenous women can be done safely.

It's been more than two months since the results of an Indigenous-led feasibility study were made public, saying a search of the Prairie Green Landfill for the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran is feasible. The study says a search could take up to three years and cost approximately $184 million. While it warns there are risks due to exposure to toxic chemicals, it says forgoing a search could be harmful to the families of the victims.

In the months since the study's release, families have been waiting for a commitment from all levels of government to get a search started.

"There are always these excuses that you hear from the provincial government about health and safety risks, and that is why we are here today," said Chief Kyra Wilson of Long Plain First Nations. "It can be done, it should be done, and it needs to be done."

This comes after Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said her government won't support the landfill search, saying the province won't knowingly risk the health and safety of Manitoba workers without a guarantee.

In response to the comments, on Monday the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs brought together a panel of experts who had helped with the creation of the feasibility study.

Emily Holland, a forensic anthropologist, said the proposed method of searching Prairie Green Landfill for the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran would be focused on one area of the landfill. The material would move through a conveyer belt system with trained individuals on either side looking for any possible evidence of the two women.

She said the method is based on two past successful landfill searches.

Mounties in B.C. successfully searched and recovered remains of several women in Robert Pickton's pig farm in British Columbia in the early 2000s. The second search in the early 2010s saw police in Sault Saint Marie, Ont. excavate a landfill south of the border where remains of a local homicide victim had been discarded.

"That was a successful search. We were able to find the remains of the victim in that case and return them to his loved ones," said Sean Sparling, the CEO of ISN Maskwa who was involved in that search.

"The same process that was used in Sault Saint Marie, Ontario is the same process we would use or that can be used in Winnipeg. It can be done safely."

The feasibility study does highlight that there is no guarantee the remains of the two women will be recovered. Grand Chief Cathy Merrick says the community understands this.

"We know there is no guarantees, but an effort for humanitarian purposes alone needs to be done. For closure, for peace of mind, we need to make that effort," she said.

"Governments cannot allow them to just be added to the staggering statistics of MMIWG and the crisis in this country. They are not garbage, yet they are being treated like garbage, left in a landfill site, no proper burial, no closure for the family."

A spokesperson for Premier Heather Stefanson's office told CTV News that leadership requires difficult decisions.

"There is no guarantee of finding remains, and immediate and long-term health and safety risks are real and cannot be ignored. We must preserve the integrity of the justice proceedings," a written statement reads. Top Stories

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