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Ottawa poised to make decision on search of Manitoba landfill for human remains: minister

September 29, 2023

Families looking for federal commitment to funding a search of the Prairie Green Landfill in Manitoba

People rally on Parliament Hill on an International Day of Action to Search the Landfills on Sept. 18, 2023.
The debate over funding a landfill search to find the remains of missing First Nations women has become a provincial election issue in Manitoba. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

CBC News: Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Gary Anandasangaree says the federal government is on the verge of presenting a plan in response to calls for a search of a Manitoba landfill for the remains of two First Nations women believed to have been murdered by an alleged serial killer.

“This is an issue that we’re in for the long haul,” Anandasangaree told CBC News on Friday. “We will make a decision very shortly.”

Anandasangaree said Ottawa is willing to support a search but it needs Manitoba to get on board. “We’re not having a mature conversation with the different levels of government on how to get to the right place,” he said. “We do need the province of Manitoba to be at the table.”

Anandasangaree has been under pressure to fund a search of the Prairie Green Landfill ever since he was shuffled into the role at the end of July.

Cambria Harris — the daughter of Morgan Harris, one of the two women whose remains are believed to be buried somewhere in the sprawling landfill — walked out of a meeting with Anandasangaree in Ottawa on Sept. 18. She said she turned her back on the meeting because the minister wouldn’t make a firm commitment to a search.

“I recognize how frustrating that may be,” Anandasangaree said. “Unfortunately, we were not able to have clarity at that meeting, but we are definitely working on a solution that will be coming out imminently.”

Jorden Myran is the sister of Marcedes Myran, one of two women whose remains are believed to be in Manitoba's Prairie Green landfill.
Jorden Myran, sister of Marcedes Myran, listens during a news conference on an International Day of Action to Search the Landfills in Ottawa on Sept. 18, 2023. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Winnipeg Police say they believe the bodies of Harris and Marcedes Myran are somewhere in the private landfill facility north of Winnipeg.

The federal government funded a feasibility study but has made no firm commitment to pay for a search. The study said a search could cost between $84 million and $184 million and could take one to three years.

‘Deeply offensive and deeply troubling’

Anandasangaree said he’s very troubled by how the issue is playing out in Manitoba’s provincial election campaign. The campaigning Progressive Conservatives have released ads and billboards promoting their opposition to a search. “It is deeply offensive and deeply troubling and deeply hurtful to the families to have this politicized in such a way that re-traumatizes the family members and the community,” he said.

One Progressive Conservative billboard in Winnipeg says: “Stand firm against the unsafe $184 million landfill dig.”

The House: 17:01

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Reconciliation and the infrastructure gapRoads, homes and running water are just a few of the pressing needs raised by Indigenous communities from coast to coast to coast. As Ernie Daniels, President and CEO of the First Nations Finance Authority points out, it’s a bad situation when so many are without the kinds of basic services supplied to most people in the country. So how does the government plan to close this infrastructure gap? Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu sits down with Catherine Cullen to assess the needs and reflect on reconciliation.

Myran’s sister Jorden Myran said the ads create another level of pain for her family. “It’s hard enough that I have to stand in front of these cameras and grieve while I fight to get her home,” she said. “I don’t need stuff added on to what I’m fighting for.”

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Gary Anandasangaree said Manitoba needs to come to the table.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Gary Anandasangaree said Ottawa is working on a solution to address calls for a search of the Prairie Green Landfill in Manitoba. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu said she can’t imagine what it feels like to be a family member waking up to political ads talking about their loved ones. “I would say using families as a political wedge is the lowest form of politics that I can actually imagine,” Hajdu told CBC’s The House in an interview airing Saturday.

Kevin Klein, the Progressive Conservative MLA running for re-election in Kirkfield Park, insisted his party is not trying to create a wedge issue. “I believe that our premier and our PC team wanted to make sure that we were being clear and transparent with all Manitobans,” Klein said. “We believe that we made the right decision. The entire PC caucus supports our premier, Heather Stefanson, on the decision made.”

Chief Kyra Wilson of Long Plain First Nation, the home community of both Myran and Harris, told CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live the governing party’s use of the landfill search issue for political purposes is an act of desperation. 

“It’s disgusting,” Wilson said in an interview that will air Sunday.

Chief Kyra Wilson of Long Plain First Nation denounced ads from Manitoba's Progressive Conservatives promoting opposition to a landfill search.
Chief Kyra Wilson of Long Plain First Nation, the home community of both Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran, said she believes there will be a decision on a search after the Oct. 3 election. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

Wilson said she believes a final decision on a landfill search will be made following the provincial election on Oct. 3.

Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham also denounced the politicization of the search and said there needs to be a definitive response from the federal and provincial governments. “If that’s indeed the case, that the federal minister has some clear news in the coming weeks, I think everybody would welcome that,” Gillingham told CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live.


Olivia Stefanovich, Senior reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a senior reporter for CBC’s Parliamentary Bureau based in Ottawa. She previously worked in Toronto, Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter at @CBCOlivia. Story tips welcome: 

With files from the CBC’s Bartley Kives, Rosemary Barton Live and the House