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'Robust, comprehensive and thorough' landfill search underway, excavation to begin this fall: Manitoba premier

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The Manitoba government says a robust, comprehensive and thorough search to recover the remains of two Indigenous women in a Winnipeg area landfill is underway, with excavations of the landfill expected to begin this fall.

On Thursday, Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew held a news conference to give details on what he described as a 'compassionate mission' – the search of the Prairie Green Landfill.

"This is a robust, comprehensive, thorough search plan – the goal of which is to, for compassionate reasons, recover the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran," Kinew told reporters.

"It's an important public initiative. We hope it is successful. We cannot guarantee success, but we can guarantee that we're going to try."

The two women – both victims of admitted serial killer Jeremy Skibicki – were killed in May 2022. Their remains are believed to have been deposited in a section of the landfill on May 16, 2022. However, nearly three weeks worth of material was put in that section of the landfill before it was shut down.

A map of the Prairie Green Landfill indicates the area (marked in green) where the remains of Marcedes Myran and Morgan Harris are believed to be. Excavations of this area are expected to begin in the late fall of 2024. (Source: Province of Manitoba)

The province said the total amount of waste in this area is around 72,000 cubic metres. It spans the length of about four football fields and is about 10 metres deep.

Amna Mackin, the project lead for the search, said it will be completed in five stages. The first stage – which was to get the required regulatory and developmental approval – has just concluded.

The second stage will try to narrow down a more specific area where the remains may be located. The province will also develop detailed health and safety plans due to the potential of harmful chemicals and asbestos in the landfill.

The team of actual searchers will be assembled, and various buildings – including a search facility and a healing space for the victims’ families – will be constructed at the landfill.

A test search will also be completed during this stage, excavating a separate area of the landfill to better understand how to work with the material. Mackin said this test search will begin at the end of June.

Excavation of landfill to search for remains begins this fall

Stage three is expected to start later this fall. Crews will excavate the top layers of waste in the section, digging down to the target area where the materials deposited around May 16, 2022, are believed to be.

At this point stage four will begin – the manual process of searching the material for the women's remains. Heavy equipment will excavate the materials in the area which will then be loaded into trucks and taken to the search facility.

There searchers will use tools and rakes to manually sift through it. Mackin said the search operations can continue throughout the winter.

If nothing is found, Mackin said stage five will begin – the province will decide if it needs to dig deeper.

"When we talk about moving ahead with the search of the Prairie Green Landfill, to me this is about sending a message to everyone in Manitoba that you matter," Kinew said. "That every single person in this province has dignity, and that when somebody goes missing, we go looking because we care."

The search has $40 million from the province and the federal government. 

-With files from CTV’s Devon McKendrick

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