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Protesters fed up with NDP government inaction after promising landfill search for slain women

Cambria Harris, daughter of Morgan Harris, addresses the crowd from the steps of the legislative building on Friday. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC - image credit)
Cambria Harris, daughter of Morgan Harris, addresses the crowd from the steps of the legislative building on Friday. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC - image credit)

Protesters demanding a search of a Winnipeg-area landfill for the remains of three First Nations women directed their anger at a new target Friday — Premier Wab Kinew, who has yet to deliver on his campaign promise.

Chants of "Bring out, Wab" rang across Manitoba's legislative grounds, where around 300 people gathered to hear speeches after a round dance and march through downtown Winnipeg.

"I'm sick of words with no action," said Cambria Harris, whose mother's remains are believed to be in the landfill.

"I'm sick of sitting in these rooms repeatedly [with] politician to politician, from premier to premier, and where has things gone? Nowhere. The progress stays the same," Harris said.

Police said a year ago they believe the remains of Morgan Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26, were taken to the Prairie Green landfill, just north of Winnipeg, in May 2022. Police have said they were victims of an alleged serial killer.

The families of the women have been fighting to have the landfill searched ever since.

'No more begging'

Friday's demonstration was part of a national day of action urging governments to begin scouring the landfill. Several events were held throughout the country.

The Winnipeg event began with a round dance, preceding a march to the steps of the Manitoba Legislative Building, where Harris and others spoke.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Cathy Merrick told the crowd she's done with pleading.

"We are going to quit begging. No more begging. Do the f---ing work," she said to rounds of cheers.

Demonstrators march down Portage Avenue in Winnipeg as they continue to demand a search for the remains of First Nations women believed to be located beneath the surface of the Prairie Green landfill.
Demonstrators march down Portage Avenue in Winnipeg as they continue to demand a search for the remains of First Nations women believed to be located beneath the surface of the Prairie Green landfill.

Demonstrators march down Portage Avenue in Winnipeg as they continue to demand a search for the remains of First Nations women believed to be located beneath the surface of the Prairie Green landfill. (Ian Froese/CBC)

Harris said they voted Kinew's government into power last October because of his commitment to search the landfill — which the previous PC government rejected and then turned its opposition into a election issue — and "now it's time for him to hold up to his word," she said.

Friday's demonstration was held on International Women's Day.

"I don't understand how these governments can celebrate our women and our diversity when our women are still laying in landfills, in garbage dumps that remain gravesites to this day. Shame," Harris shouted.

"How are you OK with letting women lie underneath piles of trash? What message and what precedent does that send?"

Jorden Myran, sister of Marcedes Myran, blasted Kinew for making "promise after promise," but proving to be "all talk and no action."

"Let's make some more noise and maybe he can hear us from in there," she told the crowd.

A few hours later, the premier addressed reporters and again insisted his government would search the landfill, but he would not commit to a timeline.

A crowd begins marching to the legislative building after a round dance at Portage and Main on Friday.
A crowd begins marching to the legislative building after a round dance at Portage and Main on Friday.

A crowd begins marching to the legislative building after a round dance at Portage and Main on Friday. (Ian Froese/CBC)

In February, Kinew was asked if he was confident the search would start in 2024 and he replied that he was. But on Friday, he said any previous timeline was more "aspirational" than specific.

"Activists who stand outside the building have an important role to play to push our government forward, and our role is different," he said. "We put in our work on this side and the activists and families put in their work."

Kinew added he wouldn't comment on operational details or funding for the search, nor whether the process has faced any hurdles in the preceding months.

"I'm not at the stage of sharing details with the media. I think it's important to talk to family and talk to Indigenous leadership first," he said.

The new information he revealed was that his government was giving AMC $500,000 to provide support to the victims' families during the trial of the man accused in their deaths.

Meeting with families in March

Harris said another meeting has been scheduled for March 25 involving all three levels of government. Kinew, federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Gary Anandasangaree and representatives from the City of Winnipeg will meet with the Harris and Myran families.

The trial of the man accused of killing Harris and Myran, as well as two other women, is scheduled to begin at the end of April.

Jeremy Skibicki was charged in December 2022 with first-degree murder in the deaths of Harris, Myran and a still-unidentified woman later given the name Mashkode Bizhiki'ikwe, or Buffalo Woman.

He had been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the death of Rebecca Contois, 24, earlier that year.

Left to right: Morgan Beatrice Harris, Marcedes Myran and Rebecca Contois. Winnipeg police said on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, they have charged Jeremy Skibicki with first-degree murder in the deaths of all three women, as well as a fourth, whom community members have named  Mashkode Bizhiki'ikwe, or Buffalo Woman, because police do not know her identity.

Left to right: Morgan Beatrice Harris, Marcedes Myran and Rebecca Contois. (Submitted by Cambria Harris, Donna Bartlett and Darryl Contois)

The AMC — working with input from technical experts, the families of Harris and Myran and others — shared a new landfill search feasibility report with all levels of government in January.

They've yet to sit down with the governments to discuss the report, "and see the outcome" of that, the grand chief said Friday, looking out at the demonstrators.

"When you don't respond to First Nation leadership, we get our people together," she said.