Concerns continue to surface that the Manitoba government’s unwillingness to assist with a landfill search for two women could embolden those who commit violence, and some believe it could give perpetrators a feeling they have a “license to murder” Indigenous women and girls.

“Manitoba must consider the significant risks connected to announcing they will not support a search of Prairie Green Landfill,” Angela Lavallee, a committee member of the Manitoba Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Two Spirit, and Gender-Diverse People (MMIWG2S+) Implementation Committee said in a statement released by the organization on Thursday.

“The decision to not support the search gives perpetrators a license to murder and dump our relatives, knowing that the government will not take measures to recover our sacred citizens.”

The MMIWG2S+ Implementation Committee said they are calling on all levels of government to implement “disaster management protocols” and begin an immediate search of the Prairie Green Landfill for the remains of Cambria Harris and Marcedes Myran. The two women’s remains are believed to be in the landfill north of Winnipeg, dumped there by alleged serial killer Jeremy Skibicki.

Skibicki was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of four women in December. He has also been charged in the death of Rebecca Contois, whose remains were found last year at Brady Road Landfill, and an unidentified woman that Indigenous leaders are calling Buffalo Woman, whose remains have not been found.

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson announced on July 6 the province would not offer assistance to search the Prairie Green Landfill, saying she came to the decision because of the results of a feasibility study that said there would be safety risks involved in that type of search and no guarantee the search would be successful.

MMIWG2S+ Implementation Committee spokesperson Sandra DeLaronde said she is concerned about the message a lack of action gives others who commit gender-based violence, but also about the message it sends to Indigenous women and girls.

“Not searching the landfill will have severe and long-term mental health risks to all Manitobans and indeed specifically to Indigenous women, children, and gender-diverse relatives who will carry the burden of safety and well-being for generations to come,” DeLaronde said.

The lack of action on a search has the attention of Indigenous leaders from other provinces, as on Wednesday evening a delegation of Indigenous leaders and officials from Saskatchewan were in Manitoba, where they joined Manitoba leaders and families in calling for a search during a media conference held at the Brady Road Landfill.

Treaty Commissioner of Saskatchewan Mary Culbertson, who spoke at Wednesday’s media conference, also questioned what message will be sent to perpetrators if governments don’t help search for Indigenous women’s remains.

“It’s unfathomable that serial killers can dump our women somewhere, and someone is going to help them to cover it up, because that is how I see it,” Culbertson said.

“We are saying, ‘just go ahead, you can do whatever you want to Indigenous people, you can dump them in these dumps and no one will look for them.’”

A study looking at the feasibility of searching the Prairie Green Landfill for human remains shows there would be risks involved in that type of search, but that there would also be risks if no search is done, including the possibility that others who murder might believe a landfill or dumpster is a good place to dispose of a body.

“Concerns have been expressed that not conducting a search for the remains of Marcedes Myran and Morgan Harris could send a message that disposing of victims in dumpsters is a good method for perpetrators, and one that comes with impunity,” reads one section of the Landfill Search Feasibility Study Committee Final Report.

“This could possibly then set a precedent that could encourage perpetrators to use dumpsters/landfill sites as a means of disposing of the remains of their victims.”

A spokesperson for the premier’s office told the Winnipeg Sun last Thursday that the premier stands by her decision because of possible health and safety concerns cited in the feasibility report which include possible exposure to asbestos, hydrogen sulfide, methane and other biological hazards, as well as risks of physical injuries in the search area, and possible mental health risks for searchers searching for human remains.

“Our hearts go out to the families, who are dealing with unimaginable grief, but leadership requires difficult decisions. There is no guarantee of finding remains and immediate and long-term health and safety risks are real and cannot be ignored,” the spokesperson said in an email.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

By Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 27, 2023 at 15:07

This item reprinted with permission from    The Sun    Winnipeg, Manitoba
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