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‘It’s quite problematic’: Federal minister questions police decision not to search Winnipeg landfill

June 12, 2024

A sign outside the courthouse in Winnipeg Monday encouraging authorities to search the Prairie Green Landfill. Photo: Jesse Andrushko/APTN. 

APTN News: Canada’s minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations says the decision by the Winnipeg Police Service not to search a local landfill for the remains of two First Nations women is “problematic.”

Gary Anandasangaree was asked about news from Manitoba Tuesday that the provincial government is starting the process of searching for Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran, two First Nations victims of admitted serial killer Jeremy Skibicki.

Police announced in December 2022 they believed the remains were in the Prairie Green Landfill, a private facility just north of Winnipeg, that picked up commercial garbage in Skibicki’s neighbourhood. Skibicki admitted he dumped the victims’ remains in dumpsters behind two nearby businesses in the spring of 2022.

Gary Anandasangaree speaking in Ottawa on Wednesday. Photo: Kerry Slack/APTN.

But, with the support of the then-Conservative government, police said the search would be too complicated and hazardous due to toxic chemicals in the landfill.

“I want to contrast with what is happening in Saskatoon,” Anandasangaree told reporters in Ottawa. “There’s a search that’s being undertaken by the police and it is important that police discharge their duties in a manner that is, you know, that they’re charged with.

“In this particular case they didn’t feel that the search was required. But I did. I do think it’s important that the search is done.”

The Saskatoon Police Service is searching the city landfill for the remains of Mackenzie Lee Trottier, a Métis woman who went missing in 2020. At the end of May, police announced they were extending the search.

“We can look at history, we can look at what happened with Robert Pickton and the Pickton farms, where the RCMP did the search,” said Anandasangaree. “I do believe that in this case, the — the police could have done the search and I think for the family to go through this traumatizing experience over the last year and a half, I think it’s quite problematic.

“So I do believe that we’re in the right place right now and — and hopefully this will have some closure for the families.”

Read More: 

Skibicki ‘would have done it again’ says psychiatrist at self-confessed killer’s trial

The families of Harris, Myran and Rebecca Contois – whose partial remains were discovered in Winnipeg garbage bins near Skibicki’s home and at the city’s Brady Road Landfill – are now awaiting a verdict from the judge in the Skibicki trial. The verdict is expected on July 11.

The identity of a fourth victim, known as Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe or Buffalo Woman – a name gifted her by Indigenous grandmothers – remains a mystery. But police have said her remains are likely in the Prairie Green landfill.

Skibicki has pleaded not guilty saying he’s “not criminally responsible” for the murders because of several mental health issues. Crown prosecutors said Skibiciki killed the women because of their race.

On Tuesday, Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew announced the province issued a “search bulletin” for the Prairie Green landfill, located just north of Winnipeg under the Environment Act. Kinew also met with the families on Tuesday.

Kinew said landfill material at the Prairie Green landfill will begin to be moved this month. The premier laid out a 5 stage plan following meetings with families. He said the first stage of the plan was “just completed” and that included getting budgets and approvals “out of the way.”

“The second stage is about us standing up the facilities and conducting those trial search operations. Stage three, hiring the workforce, standing up the entire search activity, stage four, targeting that area where we believe the remains and the landfill material from May 16, 2022 are. And then stage five will be for us to search more broadly than that, if the initial attempt is not successful,” Kinew told reporters.

Kinew said the search of the landfill could go into 2026.

With files from Kathleen Martens and Dennis Ward 

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