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New blockade goes up at Winnipeg’s Brady Road landfill as protesters demand search for women’s remains

September 27, 2023

Poll, CBC Manitoba focus group suggest voters are split on issue of landfill search ahead of Oct. 3 election

Rachel FerstlSarah Petz 

People stand on a road. One person hold an "Every Child Matters" flag.
Protesters calling for a search for the remains of two First Nations women at the Prairie Green landfill, north of Winnipeg, set up new blockade at the Brady Road landfill in south Winnipeg on Wednesday. (Ian Froese/CBC)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

CBC News: A new barricade has gone up at Winnipeg’s Brady Road landfill, as calls continue for a search for the remains of two First Nations women believed to be in another Winnipeg-area landfill.

Protesters gathered on the main entrance road to the city-owned Brady landfill, at the south end of Winnipeg, on Wednesday, setting up a row of chairs in front of a car parked in the middle of the road.

 An “Every Child Matters” flag and a sign calling for a landfill search were also nearby.

Winnipeg police say they are aware of the blockade and are communicating with protesters.

Calls have been growing for months for a search of the privately owned Prairie Green landfill, north of Winnipeg. Police believe the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran — two First Nations women suspected to have been victims of an alleged serial killer — were taken to that landfill last year.

People sit in chairs on a road. Someone holds a sign that says "search the landfill."
The blockade set up Wednesday comes after an earlier blockade at the Brady Road landfill was dismantled in July. (Ian Froese/CBC)

An earlier blockade was set up at the Brady Road landfill on July 6, after Premier Heather Stefanson announced her government would not fund a search of Prairie Green.

City of Winnipeg crews and police dismantled that barricade on July 18, after serving a temporary injunction a few days earlier ordering it to come down. A new protest camp was then set up near the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.

In the last week, the Progressive Conservatives — who are running for a third term in next week’s provincial election — have been actively campaigning on their opposition to a search at Prairie Green landfill, which a feasibility report suggested could take up to three years and cost up to $184 million.

A full-page ad from the party in Saturday’s Winnipeg Free Press highlighted Stefanson’s opposition to a search, which she has repeatedly said would be too dangerous for searchers. 

An ad with Heather Stefanson's image and the words "stand firm: For health and safety reasons, the answer on the landfill dig just has to be no.”
A portion of a Progressive Conservative advertisement that ran in the Winnipeg Free Press on Saturday, Sept. 23. (Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba)

Stefanson also raised the landfill search during the first opportunity she had to ask NDP Leader Wab Kinew a question during last week’s televised party leaders’ debate

Gerry (Gramma) Shingoose, an Anishinaabe elder and community activist, was at Brady Road on Wednesday. She said the blockade was put up again because of Stefanson’s refusal to fund a search and the ad the PCs ran over the weekend.

“She’s bringing harm to families. They’re grieving. It’s a huge loss for them,” Shingoose told CBC. “Where’s her heart?” Shingoose said she doesn’t know how long the barricade will stay up, but that it would come down if the provincial government committed to a search.

People sit in chairs on a road. A car is parked  behind them.
Winnipeg police say they are aware of the blockade and are communicating with protesters. (Ian Froese/CBC)

“The election’s coming up, and it’s … an important time here in Manitoba and Winnipeg, but it’s really an important time for the families. That focus should be on the families only,” Shingoose said. People who want to access the landfill can use another entrance, she added.

Search shouldn’t be campaign issue: AMC grand chief

In an interview earlier Wednesday, the leader of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said she’s disappointed that the debate over a potential search of Prairie Green has become a campaign issue. “For certain parties to make it an issue, that’s not right,” AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said, adding the question of a landfill search for the women’s remains is not a First Nations issue, but a moral one. 

“I don’t think anybody rightfully would not support to bring them home because we all have relatives, we all have daughters, we all have granddaughters,” she said.  “And if it was you in that position, what would you … think if the government said that we will not search for your daughter in the landfills?”

A close up shot of an Indigenous woman with medium length black hair.
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Cathy Merrick says new ads from Manitoba’s Progressive Conservatives saying the party won’t support a landfill search are hurtful. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

A recent poll suggested Manitobans are split on whether to search the landfill. 

A focus group of nine voters run for CBC Manitoba this week by Probe Research seemed to reflect that as well. 

Two voters in the focus group said they thought the PCs’ refusal to search the landfill was “disgusting,” while two others said they weren’t “100 per cent” on board with a search.  However, none said the landfill search was a deciding factor in how they planned to vote.  “I feel like there’s a lot bigger issues than that kind of working first,” said Cole Stocki, a focus group participant who lives in the Kirkfield Park riding in Winnipeg. 

Nigel Moore from the River Heights riding in Winnipeg said he found it “remarkable” that the search was becoming a campaign issue at all. 

The focus group was a collaboration between CBC Manitoba and Probe Research to learn more about voters’ opinions and get a sense of where they stand on issues. The polling company identified potential participants from its panel and then randomly selected nine people to ensure a mix of people reasonably representative of Manitoba’s demographics. 

Important to be clear on stance: PC candidate

Protesters calling for a search also gathered Wednesday morning outside the constituency office of Kirkfield Park PC candidate Kevin Klein, who made a campaign announcement regarding domestic violence there. The incumbent said the issue is one that “all parties are making divisive.” “It shouldn’t be that way. But we are seeing all parties make this a divisive issue and that’s unfortunate,” Klein said following his announcement.

Two women wearing red sweatshirts hold a poster that says 'we are human not trash hashtag search the landfill' with photos of four murdered Indigenous women.
Protesters calling for a search of Prairie Green landfill gathered outside the campaign headquarters of Kirkfield Park PC candidate Kevin Klein earlier Wednesday. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Asked about the PC ads, Klein said Stefanson has held steadfast on her position on the landfill search.  “She felt that it was very important to be clear and transparent about our stance on that,” he said. The Manitoba election takes place Oct. 3. Advance voting is open now and continues until Saturday.

Support is available for anyone affected by these reports. You can talk to a mental health professional via Wellness Together Canada by calling 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 686868 for youth or 741741 for adults. It is free and confidential.

As well, a national Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide support for survivors and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour service at 1-866-925-4419.

Mental health counselling and crisis support is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Hope for Wellness hotline at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat.

With files from Ian Froese, Cameron MacIntosh and Bartley Kives