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Manitoba Landfill Protest Moves to Camp Marcedes

Outside the Canadian Museum for Human Rights sits Camp Marcedes. Created by Jordan Myran in memory of her sister Marcedes Myran, Camp Marcedes was erected the day after protestors were removed by court order from the Brady Road landfill after staying over 200 days.

Protestors gathered at the landfill in opposition to the decision by Premier Heather Stefanson and the Winnipeg Police not to search Prairie Green landfill for the remains of Marcedes Myran and Morgan Harris, two women murdered in the spring.

“We chose to set up another camp to keep her name and her spirit alive,” Jordan Myran told me on a 30-degree afternoon in Winnipeg. “We want to shed some light on this problem that we’re facing.”

Premier Heather Stefanson, who in December pledged her support for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs landfill search feasibility study, has stated firmly her government will not support a landfill search, citing risks of “jeopardizing the judicial process” as well as the safety risks for those involved.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, with the aid of a $500,000 grant from the federal government, released their study addressing the need to search for the bodies of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran as well as how to overcome obstacles during the process. The purpose of the study was to determine whether the search was feasible. The study began in December after the Winnipeg Police Service announced they would not be searching the landfill for these women. 

The Myran and Harris families attended a meeting with Premier Heather Stefanson. The morning of the meeting, Stefanson received the feasibility study and had not had the time to read it. Despite having not read the federally funded study, Stefanson stood by her decision. After meeting with the premier, Jordan says she feels disrespected after being told the search of Prairie Green would not be conducted due to safety concerns.

“In the feasibility study, it says that it is safe,” Jordan explained. “It just shows that she had her mind made up before we got there. What we said didn’t matter. It didn’t change the way she felt. It was clearly a pointless meeting.”

Jordan describes Stefanson as having been disrespectful and showing no remorse in the meeting. 

Provincial Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen has repeated the sentiment of Stefanson. He would advocate for a search “if it were my son,” but the province must consider the safety of those doing the search on the industrial landfill site. 

“I’m entirely sympathetic to those families who are affected because every family would advocate for their family… but provincial governments responsibility is broader than that and, as the attorney general, from a justice perspective, my thought process has to include that as well.”

Both Stefanson and Goertzen have also referred to the risk of interfering with the trial of Jeremy Skibicki, the man charged with the murder of both Myran and Harris as well as two other women -Rebecca Contois and an unidentified indigenous woman who, until she is identified, is referred to as Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe which translates to Buffalo Woman.

Former Federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Affairs Marc Miller has spoken on the subject, calling the decision of the Stefanson government heartless. 

“This has been dealt with in a very heartless way… In this space, jurisdiction is a poisonous word. It perpetuates the trauma … the reaction that we’ve seen from our partner in Manitoba is one that makes any decision this summer logistically impossible. We’ve lost the window this summer to actually get something done.”

Stefanson promptly responded, “comments made … on the Prairie Green Landfill situation are more than unfortunate. When judgement and sensitivity are required, [Marc Miller] has chosen to inflame and distort.” 

She went on to say, “What should not happen – must not happen – is the continuing politicization of this awful tragedy. This irresponsible approach can only compound the suffering of the families, inflame wider community issues and threaten matters already before the courts.”

The federal government has stated landfills are a provincial issue, and the provincial government must condone a search of this type. Former Minister Miller has also said, “We will continue engaging the province into conversations, and we look forward to having them at the table.”

Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham has met with Long Plains First Nation chief Kyra Wilson -the community Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran were from- as well as family members of the deceased. Gillingham supports finding a way to search the landfill. No clear plan was stated, but Gillingham’s support is appreciated by the families. 

Camp Marcedes was set up on July 18th and will remain until the landfills have been searched.

Timeline of events:

On May 1st, 2022, Morgan Harris was last seen near Main Street and Henry Avenue. On May 4th, police allege Skibicki murdered Marcedes Myran. Soon after, he is alleged to have murdered another woman, Rebecca Contois, whose remains were discovered on May 16th. By this point, Winnipeg police had come to believe the remains of both Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran had been disposed of in the Prairie Green landfill.

In June of 2022, refuse was no longer allowed to dump in the Prairie Green landfill cell where the remains of Harris and Myran were determined to have been deposited.

In December, the police made an announcement stating the remains of Harris and Myran are at the Prairie Green landfill, and it would not be feasible to search for them as approximately 10,000 loads of debris had been dumped at the location of interest before police knew where the bodies were, including 9,000 tonnes of construction clay.

It was around this time the Winnipeg police publicly announced Skibicki had been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Harris, Myran, Rebecca Contois and an unidentified woman who would come to be known as Buffalo Woman.

December 8th Heather Stefanson announced the investigation of Prairie Green landfill had been paused while the chair of the Winnipeg Police board said officials were doing their best to find a method to search for the remains of Harris and Myran.

December 11th, protesters blocked the Brady Road landfill entrance preventing public access, leading the landfill to shut down from December 31st to January 6th. Protestors demanded the landfill be searched for the remains of the four women murdered by Skibicki.

January 17th, 2023, the AMC announce they will conduct a study to determine the feasibility of a search of Prairie Green landfill. “Once federal funding is secured, the subcommittee can begin the critical work to complete the feasibility study report with recommendations and associated relevant budgets and timelines related to a search and recovery effort.”

The study concluded that victims’ families and communities will experience immense distress if the search is not done. Among other issues highlighted in the report are the health and safety of individuals searching the site. The report suggested hazardous materials teams be on site, prepared to monitor air quality, sanitation needs and other pertinent roles throughout the process as well as other safety measures.

According to the study, the estimated cost of a search would range from $84 million to $184 million and could take between 12 to 36 months to complete.

– Matthew Harrison, U Multicultural

Reconnecting to Filipino Heritage Primrose Madayag Knazan is an award-winning Jewish Filipino-Canadian playwright and author. Her novel, Lessons in Fusion, was nominated for the Manitoba Book Award for Best First Book, both the Manitoba and Saskatchewan Young Readers Choice Awards, and won the Manitoba Book Award for Young Readers. Her play, Precipice, wonContinue Reading

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