Church leaders and members from across the country were in Winnipeg this week, where they stood in solidarity with advocates who have been calling for months for a search of the Prairie Green Landfill for the remains of two Indigenous women.
On Tuesday, leaders and members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the United Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the Anglican Church of Canada and Mennonite Church Canada joined advocates at Camp Morgan, an encampment that has been set up since December at the Brady Road Landfill in Winnipeg.
Leaders from the five national churches came to Camp Morgan this week after last week jointly calling on all levels of government in Canada to begin work on a search of the Prairie Green Landfill for the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran, two Indigenous women believed to have been murdered and dumped at the landfill north of Winnipeg by an alleged serial killer.
United Church of Canada Moderator, The Right Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne travelled from B.C to be at Camp Morgan on Tuesday, and said it was important for people of all faith backgrounds from across Canada to show their support for a landfill search.
“I think with the racialization of poverty and of missing and murdered women and girls in particular, there is an assumption that them being murdered or going missing was their own personal moral failing,” Lansdowne said.
“And that is a stereotype that needs to be confronted.”
She said she believes that systemic racism has played a role in a search for the women not getting underway, because she has seen money and resources put into other search efforts in this country.
“It’s not like we’ve never searched a landfill before, it’s not like we haven’t spent millions of dollars searching for missing and murdered people before, it’s not like we didn’t just send the Canadian military to search for billionaires who were in a submarine that disappeared trying to see the Titanic.
“This is a systemic issue.”
On Tuesday, church leaders spent time speaking with Camp Morgan officials and families of missing and murdered women and girls to learn what they could do to help them as they continue to push for a landfill search.
Jeremy Skibicki was charged with first-degree murder in December in the deaths of four women, including Harris and Myran, whose remains are both believed to be at the privately-run Prairie Green Landfill.
He has also been charged in the death of Rebecca Contois, whose remains were found last year at the Brady Road Landfill, and an unidentified woman Indigenous leaders are calling Buffalo Woman, whose remains have not been found.
Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson announced on July 6 that the province would not offer assistance to search the Prairie Green Landfill, saying she came to the decision because of the results of a feasibility study.
The feasibility study said that a search for Harris and Myran was feasible, but could cost as much as $184 million, and pose health and safety threats to workers, and that there was no guarantee that it would be successful.
But there has been a groundswell of support and calls for a search to take place, as in recent weeks and months support for a landfill search has also come from Amnesty International, CUPE Local 500, the national Union of Taxation Employees, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Provincial Council of Women of Manitoba, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Treaty Commissioner of Saskatchewan, and several other organizations, officials and politicians across Canada.
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.