Hundreds of people turned out for rallies across the country in support of families who want authorities to search a private landfill site outside of Winnipeg for two missing First Nations women.
The marches took place on the International Day of Action to search the landfills.
In Ottawa, people took to Parliament Hill to lobby federal politicians.
Melissa Robinson, cousin of Morgan Harris, one of the women police believe is in the Prairie Green landfill, said a meeting with Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Gary Anandasangaree, didn’t turn out as planned.
“We last sat with him five weeks ago and he expressed the work needs to be done, we’re going to start doing it but in five weeks nothing has panned out yet,” Robinson said. “So, here we are, yet again sitting down and reliving our trauma just to be told that they have more questions.”
The remains of Marcedes Myran are also suspected to be in the same landfill. The families have been calling for provincial and federal leaders to pay for a search.
Their families say they expected Anandasangaree, who was appointed to the position in the last cabinet shuffle by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to tell them the federal government would pay for the search – or have new information.
Jorden Myran is the sister of Marcedes. She said continuously having to ask the government for help is traumatizing.
“I shouldn’t have to stand up in front of you all today fighting to get my sister’s remains out of a garbage dump,” she said. “It’s disgusting that it’s now been ten months of this fight. Ten months of having to stand in front of people in the media fighting and grieving at the exact same time. My sister was human, my sister deserves a proper burial.”
Cathy Merrick, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said First Nations people want action on a search – not more government red tape.
“With the new minister here, we came here to be optimistic that things will change but there is so much bureaucracy in our systems when it comes to our people,” she said.
APTN News reached out to Anandasangaree for comment. The minister said the situation is “heartwrenching” but, like his conversation with the families, didn’t offer any new information.
“While we are looking at potential next steps to supporting the search, we encourage all partners to come to the table and work collaboratively with us, including the Government of Manitoba, as addressing the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls requires collaboration across all levels of government,” a spokesperson wrote.
Watch Leanne Sanders’ story on the Winnipeg rally here:
A few hundred people gathered in front of the Manitoba Legislative building over the noon hour on this National Day of Action—all in an effort to pressure governments to search the landfill near Winnipeg for the remains of the missing women.
Family members of missing and murdered women, girls and Two-Spirit people were joined by support groups, unions, and First Nation leadership.
Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, with more than 315,000 members across the country, renewed its call to all levels of government to honour the wishes of the families for a comprehensive search. The national union says that the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit Peoples is a national disgrace that transcends provincial boundaries.
“I just think that the movement is growing bigger, and I really think that it’s really sad that we have to have an International Day of Action for something like this,” said Gina Smoke, who works in Indigenous relations for Unifor.
Meanwhile, the recently elected chief of Sagkeeng spoke of the impact in his nation.
“I really found it important to be here today because our community in Sagkeeng is suffering some of the highest rates of missing and murdered women across Canada,” said E.J. Fontaine.
Calling herself an impacted family member, the chair of the National Family and Survivor’s Circle told the crowd we can’t forget the women who have been taken.
“It’s really important as a community that we rise together and we carry the families during this difficult journey that they’re on,” Hilda Anderson-Pyrz said.
“Each and every one of us has the sacred responsibility to call out our government, to demand action.”
In the east, dozens of people marched in Halifax demanding a search.
“We need action, you know searching the landfills is what reconciliation looks like, we can’t be talking reconciliation and not be doing any follow through,” said one marcher.
Jeremy Skibicki has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Harris, Myran and two others — Rebecca Contois, whose partial remains were found in a different landfill last year, and an unidentified woman Indigenous leaders are calling Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe or Buffalo Woman.
With files from Angel Moore