At what cost is truth and reconciliation being deemed “unfeasible?”
In December 2022, news headlines detailed an arrest in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The individual was charged with the murder of Rebecca Contois, an Indigenous woman from Crane River First Nation. There are three additional women whose deaths the same person is suspected responsible for.
News of the possible whereabouts of the additional victims, Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran, and Buffalo Woman (an unidentified victim who was named by Indigenous leaders), made headlines at the same time the Winnipeg police stated that conducting a search of the landfill where finding their remains may be “unfeasible.” Kimberly Murray, a Mohawk woman working with Indigenous communities to investigate unmarked graves, stated that this refusal is “a breach of human dignity” and that under international convention families of the women have a “right to know.” On December 6, 2022, the daughters of Morgan Harris attended a news conference where they accused the Winnipeg police of gross negligence.
In 2021, only a year earlier, the Canadian government released the “Federal Pathway to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People (MMIWG2S)” which outlines the federal government’s contributions to the National Action Plan and their commitments to ending the MMIWG2S epidemic. Within the 30-page document, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is quoted saying, “Together, with families, survivors, Indigenous partners, and provincial and territorial governments, we will continue to respond to the National Inquiry’s Final Report in a way that is lasting, impactful, and accountable.”
In a 2022 press conference, Cambria Harris, daughter of Morgan Harris, asked why “the police won’t do anything, and they say they won’t search because it’s not feasible, is human life not feasible?” A question that neither the federal nor provincial government seems willing to answer.
Despite this, families and supporters of the call to search Prairie Green Landfill seek to put pressure on the provincial and federal governments to search for the women. Yet as of June 2023, the Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson has remained firm in her stance not to search the landfill, citing safety issues outlined within a feasibility study. This comes despite proposals that the risks of conducting a search could be minimized.
Recently, people in at least 17 cities across Canada, including Ottawa, gathered as part of a day of action organized by Myran and Harris’s families. Rallies called for an immediate search of the landfill north of Winnipeg. Long Plain First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson stated that “people are not trash” in a September 18 news conference held in Ottawa with the families and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Cathy Merrick.
Further, Chief Wilson said the following on the matter: “We need to make sure that we’re continuing that momentum and people know the importance of everyone coming together to make sure that we can bring these women home.”