The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) is calling for the resignation of Premier Heather Stefanson for her continued refusal to support a search of two Winnipeg-area landfills for missing Indigenous women.
The AMC passed a resolution at its annual general assembly in Brokenhead Ojibway Nation this week demanding Stefanson step down for not following the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Article 12 of UNDRIP encourages governments to facilitate access to and repatriation of human remains.
AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick has been critical of Stefanson’s handling of the matter. “It is apparent that Heather Stefanson is not suitable as Premier of this province,” Merrick said in a news release Friday. “She failed to review the Final Report of the Landfill Search Feasibility Study Committee’s Technical Subcommittee before making her decision to deny the search.”
The study was prepared after the Winnipeg Police Service said in December it was not feasible to search for the bodies. But the study, led by AMC, claims a search is feasible at a cost of up to $184 million over three years.
The study highlighted the “pressing need for collaborative efforts” to bring closure to the families.
Noting that Stefanson wore a beaded red dress symbol (representing missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls) on her coat during a recent public appearance, Merrick said it showed a lack of respect.
“Or frankly, any basic understanding of the symbol she is wearing. She is quite literally the opposing force of the red dress personified.”
The privately run Prairie Green landfill and Winnipeg’s Brady Road landfill are believed to contain the remains of Marcedes Myran, Morgan Harris and the unidentified Buffalo Woman — all believed to be victims of an alleged serial killer.
Stefanson cited safety concerns for workers with no guarantee of a result as the main reason not to support a search.
APTN News contacted Stefanson for comment Friday afternoon but did not hear back. The premier did not attend a party leader’s election forum she was invited to by AMC on Wednesday.
With a fall election looming, NDP leader Wab Kinew and the Liberal’s Dougald Lamont have affirmed their support for a search.