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Manitoba premier says he's confident landfill search for remains will start this year


Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew said Thursday he is confident a landfill search for the remains of two slain First Nations women will begin this year, while the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said it was still waiting for signs of progress.

"We are going to search the landfill at Prairie Green. We are going to work with the families along the way and Indigenous leadership," Kinew said in response to a reporter's questions at an unrelated news conference on health care.

"We're also going to be there to support the families through what I expect will be a difficult next few months."

The NDP government has promised to search the Prairie Green Landfill, a privately run facility north of Winnipeg, where the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran are believed to have been taken after they were killed in the spring of 2022.

Jeremy Skibicki has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Harris, Myran and two others -- Rebecca Contois, whose partial remains were found in a different landfill last year, and an unidentified woman Indigenous leaders are calling Mashkode Bizhiki'ikwe or Buffalo Woman.

His trial is slated to start in April.

An operational report prepared earlier this year by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, in conjunction with an emergency response training firm, said a search could begin near the end of October if funding was in place by Feb. 1. That has yet to happen.

The report says the funding is needed months in advance because a lot of work has to be done to get machinery in place, construct buildings and obtain environmental approval to deal with asbestos and other material in the landfill. The report has not been publicly released but a copy was obtained by The Canadian Press.

The report lays out plans to control asbestos, a cancer-causing material, including having full protective gear for workers and keeping the area wet to prevent the asbestos from becoming airborne.

The assembly had asked for $20 million last year to get the process started. The total cost of the search could be $90 million or more, and there is no guarantee of success, the report says.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said Thursday it welcomed Kinew's ongoing commitment to search the landfill, but the provincial and federal governments had yet to commit to the report's plans.

"We have been waiting to hear how we move forward on the (report) my office sent to both levels of government on Jan. 24," Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said in a written statement.

"The absence of First Nation representation in meetings or involvement in discussions between the province and the federal government regarding this crucial humanitarian effort is troubling."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who joined Kinew for the health announcement, said the federal government will support the search.

"I have met with the families of the murdered women and I have continued to commit that the federal government will be there as a partner," Trudeau said.

   This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2024 Top Stories

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