While Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson was defending her decision to not put provincial support behind the search for the remains of two First Nations women in a landfill outside of Winnipeg, the cousin of Morgan Harris was not so supportive.
“To leave my cousin there and say that it’s ok—it’s not ok,” said Melissa Robinson.
There has been no decision on what to do with a study that examined whether a search of the Prairie Green Landfill site for the bodies of Harris and Marcedes Myran. According to the study, the search could take up to three years at a cost of $184 million.
Both are believed to be victims of a suspected serial killer, who has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder. Winnipeg police allege Jeremy Michael Anthony Skibicki killed three Indigenous women and one believed to be Indigenous between March 2022 and May 2022 and dumped their bodies in the garbage.
Only the remains of one of the victims, Rebecca Contois, were recovered from the city-owned Brady Road landfill. Police said the remains of Myran, Harris and a third unidentified person, known as Buffalo Woman, were likely in the Prairie Green Landfill 25 km northwest of Winnipeg.
The report into the search for their remains also cited two likely areas where the remains could be located but stopped short of guaranteeing success if a search was undertaken.
The reason Stefanson gave for not wanting to search the site was over health concerns. The site if full of asbestos and animal remains.
“We understand the desire to leave no stone unturned. However, the search process described in the report is complex, and comes with long-term human health and safety concerns that simply cannot be ignored,” Stefanson said in a written statement released on Wednesday.
“Based on the report, we cannot knowingly risk Manitoba workers’ health and safety for a search without a guarantee. As stated in the report, the emotional costs associated with conducting a search and not recovering remains must be considered, as should the emotional costs associated with potential delays and the duration of a search.”
On Thursday, she stuck to her statement.
“It is about safety and obviously the federal government if they choose to go down that path, again they’re not right now, so we’ll wait to see what they come up with,” she said. “But we want to ensure the safety of workers first and foremost.”
Cambria Harris, the daughter of Morgan Harris, expressed anger and disappointment after her meeting with the premier.
“I told (Stefanson) she was retraumatizing my family quite frankly, and I found it disrespectful,” Cambria Harris wrote in a social media post.
“Once again a game of political yo-yo, pointing fingers back at the federal government and (Crown-Indigenous Relations) Minister Marc Miller, who has met with my family on numerous occasions.”
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, an organization that represents 49 First Nations in the province, issued a statement Thursday expressing disappointment over the premier’s refusal to co-fund the search.
“I implore the Premier of Manitoba to reflect on the values of compassion, justice and respect for the lives of all Manitobans, including those of First Nations,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick in the statement.
The AMC said it’s still waiting to hear from the federal government on what the next steps will be.
The office of Marc Miller, minister of Crown-Indigenous relations said the study is still being reviewed.
With files from the Canadian Press