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Winnipeg Police Board says Indigenous community needs to advocate for Manitoba landfill search

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

The chair of the Winnipeg Police Board says it is up to members of the Indigenous community to advocate for a search of the landfill north of the city where it is believed the bodies of two Indigenous women killed by an alleged serial killer are located.

Coun. Markus Chambers made the announcement during a media availability on Monday following a meeting of the board and police about the potential search of Prairie Green landfill.

“It was decided that the Winnipeg Police Board is not the arbiter in terms of the next decision, or decision-making process or the next steps,” he said. “That's really up to the Indigenous communities and various levels of governments to determine what those next steps are, with respect to this situation of the landfill at Prairie Green.”

Last week, the Manitoba government paused operations at the landfill, located near Stony Mountain, Man., until the next steps are decided. Police believe the bodies of Morgan Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26 ended up in the Prairie Green landfill in the spring.

Jeremy Skibicki is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Harris, Myran, Rebecca Contois, and a fourth unidentified woman that Indigenous leaders have called Buffalo Woman. The charges have not been proven in court.

Police said they believe the four women were killed in the spring, although investigators have so far only located the remains of Contois. They were found in a garbage bin in the city and in a separate landfill.

“At this point, the police have done their job,” Chambers said. “They have recovered, you know, the remains of Rebecca Contois, they have been able to have charges laid in that regard, which has led them to other parts of the investigation that's led to additional charges being laid against Mr. Skibicki. So from that perspective, they've done their due diligence."

Chambers added, “There was consultation that was done to determine the feasibility of a search. We know that the Indigenous community is not satisfied with that. So, it's up to them now to reach out to the levels of government as that invitation has been provided so that it can be determined what those next steps are.

Police said they decided in June to not search Prairie Green landfill, citing the passage of time, the fact that 10,000 truckloads of refuse were dumped in the area in the following months, and that trash at the landfill is compacted with heavy mud about 12 metres deep.

The decision to not search the landfill has been criticized by family members of the victims and Indigenous advocates, with several calling on Police Chief Danny Smyth to resign.

The length of the landfill pause is not known. CTV Winnipeg has reached out to the owner of the landfill for comment.

A spokesperson for Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada said it is up to the Winnipeg Police Service to request operational assistance from the RCMP for any assistance.

A spokesperson for the province said that the Winnipeg Police Service is the lead agency on this matter, and that, “The province is prepared to provide any assistance required or requested.”

-With files from The Canadian Press

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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.

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