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Slain woman's daughters demand search after police say remains of 2 women likely at dump north of Winnipeg

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2022-12-06 Rachel Bergen

The daughters of Morgan Harris — one of four women police allege were killed by a Winnipeg man — say police told them their mother's remains are believed to be at a landfill north of the city, not the Brady Road landfill.

But at a Tuesday news conference, Winnipeg police said due to a number of factors, they made the decision not to search the Prairie Green Landfill for remains.

Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth confirmed that investigators believe the remains of Morgan Harris — along with those of Marcedes Myran, another homicide victim — are at the Prairie Green Landfill, just north of Winnipeg's Perimeter Highway.

"This is not how we wanted it to end, and my heart goes out to the families expecting and hoping for a different outcome," Smyth said at the afternoon news conference in Winnipeg.

"We acknowledge that a lot of people are angry, and we're doing our best to bring justice for the families."

Earlier in the day, Kera and Cambria Harris said they were told by police on Monday that their mother's remains are believed to be at Prairie Green, and officers gave them a PowerPoint presentation, explaining why they won't search there.

"They say that they can't search because it's not feasible. Is human life not feasible?" Cambria said at a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday.

"Time and time again, our Indigenous women and brothers and sisters have to come here, and we have to shout and we have to raise our voices begging for change and begging for justice for our people, and that is wrong."

 

Cambria and her sister Kera travelled from Winnipeg to Ottawa with a number of First Nations advocacy organizations to demand help from the federal government to address the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.

Police said last week they believe Morgan, who was from Long Plain First Nation but living in Winnipeg, was killed by Jeremy Skibicki. Her remains haven't been found. 

Skibicki was charged in May with first-degree murder in the death of Rebecca Contois, 24, another First Nations woman living in Winnipeg. Her partial remains were found at the Brady Road landfill.

On Thursday, police said he's also charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Morgan, Myran, who was also from Long Plain, and an unidentified woman whom community members have named Mashkode Bizhiki'ikwe, or Buffalo Woman.

Police explain why they won't search landfill

While police don't yet know where Buffalo Woman's remains are, they do believe Morgan and Myran's are at Prairie Green.

But at Tuesday's news conference, Smyth said police made the "very difficult decision" not to search that landfill, after determining it wouldn't be feasible.

Insp. Cam MacKid said he and his team with the Winnipeg Police Service's forensics, intelligence and technology department were approached on June 20 by members of the homicide unit, after they said they thought additional human remains were disposed of at that landfill.

MacKid, who was involved in searching the Brady Road landfill for Contois, said police became aware that the remains were dumped at Prairie Green more than a month after it's believed that happened.

A dump truck is seen depositing trash at the Prairie Green Landfill north of Winnipeg. Police believe the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran are located at the dump, but said it's much too dangerous and complicated to search for them. © Jeff Stapleton/CBC A dump truck is seen depositing trash at the Prairie Green Landfill north of Winnipeg. Police believe the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran are located at the dump, but said it's much too dangerous and complicated to search for them.

"At that point, about 10,000 loads of debris were dumped subsequent to the load we were interested in," he said at the news conerence.

In addition, 1,500 tonnes of animal remains were deposited in that 34-day time frame.

MacKid said the garbage truck they believe was carrying the remains wasn't equipped with GPS to help investigators pinpoint the area of the landfill to search, and the garbage was later compacted with 9,000 tonnes with wet, heavy construction clay.

Searching the Brady Road landfill was a challenge, but one that made sense to undertake at the time, MacKid said, because police were able to pinpoint the general area Contois's remains might be. Within five hours, they were able to stop trucks from dumping additional refuse.

In that case, no construction clay was deposited on the area.

MacKid also said the search could be dangerous, due to factors like potentially poisonous gases released at the landfill by decomposing waste and asbestos.

'Why haven't you asked for help?'

But Morgan's daughter Kera said police should do whatever it takes to find the remains of the women.

"If you can't find them, then why haven't you asked for help? Why can't you ask for help nationwide rather than just having a small amount of people conduct the searches?" she said at the Ottawa news conference.

Community members are willing to offer help, she said.

"How can you even fathom the idea to leave them there? These women are deserving of a proper resting place, not to be left alone in a landfill in the dead of winter."

Cambria says her mother deserves a home.

"My mother didn't pass away with a home, so let's pay her the respect that she deserves by finally giving her one."

Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said all levels of government have failed Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people for centuries.

"I think as we recognize the failure of the federal government to keep these women safe, it's important to realize that there are women today that are in the same vulnerable place that these women were, and that continues," he said at the news conference.

He is scheduled to meet with Morgan Harris's family on Tuesday, as well as the chief of Long Plain First Nation, to discuss what supports the federal government can provide.

Support is available for anyone affected by details of this case. If you require support, you can contact Ka Ni Kanichihk's Medicine Bear Counselling, Support and Elder Services at 204-594-6500, ext. 102 or 104 (within Winnipeg), or 1-888-953-5264 (outside Winnipeg).

Support is also available via Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak's Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Liaison unit at 1-800-442-0488 or 204-677-1648.

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