Premier-designate Wab Kinew, leading Manitoba’s newly elected NDP government, reaffirmed his commitment to search the Prairie Green landfill for the remains of two First Nations women believed to be victims of alleged serial killer Jeremy Skibicki.
The remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran are suspected to be located in the landfill, north of Winnipeg. Their discovery has been a contentious topic in Manitoba’s recent election campaign.
“We need to move ahead with the search and that’s something we’ve committed to in the campaign,” Kinew told Vassy Kapelos on CTV’s Power Play. “It’s about the dignity of these families who are mourning their loved one and let’s not forget these families.”
Point Douglas MLA Bernadette Smith, an advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women since her sister’s disappearance in 2008, echoed Kinew’s sentiment on 680 CJOB’s The Start, “Not even as a government, but just as human beings, we have to do something.”
The federal government, recognizing the gravity of the situation, has allocated $740,000 towards further studying the feasibility of the landfill search. Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Gary Anandasangaree announced this commitment, stressing the need for deeper research into the search’s logistics based on an initial feasibility study.
“We think all governments need to be part of this process,” Anandasangaree stated. “From a federal perspective, I’ve been very clear that we are in it for the long haul, and we will work with the families, the community impacted as well as the province of Manitoba to get to the right answer on this.”
That initial study, funded by the federal government, indicated that while a search is feasible, there are risks associated with toxic materials that could harm workers. The projected cost and duration of the search could range from $84 million to $184 million and could take up to three years.
Families of the victims and several Indigenous organizations have been urging for immediate action rather than more studies. The former premier, Heather Stefanson and her Progressive Conservatives faced significant criticism for their decision not to search the landfill during the campaign.
Kinew remains optimistic about federal collaboration. He noted, “Not only the families but also Indigenous leadership has communicated to the federal government their expectation and their ask that the federal government participate in this and so I look forward to being able to work together with all levels of government…to be able to do right by these families.”
As the province moves forward under its first First Nations premier, there’s hope that this issue, deeply significant to Indigenous communities, will be addressed with the urgency and respect it demands.