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Breaking:: Advocates for landfill search hold demonstration at World Police Fire Games in Winnipeg


Protesters briefly shoved and shoved safely at the entrance to a World Police and Fire Games venue in Winnipeg on Sunday night after a demonstration in which indigenous leaders and bereaved family members continued to pressure the government to Search landfills for the remains of homicide victims.

About 200 people marched from Oodena Circle, an indigenous gathering space in downtown The Forks, to the games athletes’ village. They yelled “take them home” and “search the dump” as they moved through the national historic site.

Once at the games site, a small group of protesters pressed against the front entrance gates, which were manned by nine security guards. After a few tense moments, the protesters backed down.

Shortly thereafter, up to a dozen uniformed Winnipeg police officers arrived, but were not observed acting against the protesters.

The otherwise peaceful rally and march was organized by the Manitoba Assembly of Chiefs (AMC), which represents the majority of First Nations in the province.

The advocacy organization called the rally to continue to pressure the federal and Manitoba governments to go ahead with landfill searches.

The remains of Morgan Harris, 39, along with those of Marcedes Myran, 26, are believed to be found at the private Prairie Green landfill, just north of Winnipeg, after the same man allegedly killed the women. last year.

Winnipeg police say they believe it is not feasible to search for them. The AMC has said that a recent feasibility study shows that a search could, in fact, be conducted safely.

The Manitoba government has previously said it will not help fund a search, citing security concerns it says could result from leaking toxic materials.

Funding for games, but not for search, criticized

High Chief Cathy Merrick told rally attendees that the province helped fund the police and fire kits to the tune of millions of dollars.

The Olympic-style competition featuring active and retired lifeguards is expected to draw more than 8,500 participants, including friends and family of competitors, from more than 70 countries.

Merrick urged Premier Heather Stefanson not to ignore calls to change her government’s position.

“As they’ve brought Winnipeg to the world, we’ll show the world … this is not friendly Manitoba,” Merrick said, referencing the long-standing provincial license plate tagline.

Some 200 people participated in the march from Oodena Circle in The Forks to the nearby athletes’ village for the World Police Fire Games. (James Turner/CBC)

“Beyond being prime minister, you are a human being… do the right thing and act collaboratively,” Merrick said.

Merrick was joined by other provincial First Nations leaders and also relatives of the murdered women. Harris’s cousin, Melissa Robinson, called Stefanson “heartless”, while Cambria Harris, Morgan’s daughter, described the provincial government’s decision as “a scary thing”.

“What made these events (the police and fire games) doable but not the quest?” Harris asked. “It’s because they don’t value our lives,” he told the gathering.

For some, the issue of the adequacy of landfill searches dates back more than a decade. Sue Caribou’s niece, Tanya Nepinak, is among Manitoba’s missing and murdered women.

Police searched her remains at the Brady Road landfill, operated by the city of Winnipeg, in 2012, believing she had been murdered by a man who was later convicted of killing two other indigenous women.

The second-degree murder charge Shawn Lamb faced in connection with Nepinak’s death was dropped by prosecutors in 2013 for lack of evidence.

Police searched Brady Road for six days but found nothing. “They gave up on my niece,” he said, holding up a large photo of her as he spoke.

A woman holding a photo of another woman speaks into a microphone.  She is flanked by other people listening to her speak.
Sue Caribou, left, told protesters she believes police stopped looking for her niece, Tanya Nepinak, at the Brady Road dump in 2012. (James Turner/CBC)

“I will not give up,” Nepinak said. “We are all human beings and no one belongs to any dump.”

I hope the new federal minister will act

Merrick said he hopes to hear soon from the new federal Crown Minister for Indian Relations, Gary Anandasangaree, who recently replaced Marc Miller following a cabinet reshuffle.

Miller had criticized the province’s refusal to search, calling it “ruthless”.

For his part, Anandasangaree vowed last week to find a solution for the families of the victims that is “just and proper.”

“I look forward to your call to begin this important work for our women,” Merrick said.

In an interview with CBC just before the rally, Cambria Harris said Miller had supported the search efforts “all the way” and hoped Anandasangaree would do the same.

“If they say they care about reconciliation, they’re going to look in the garbage can,” Harris said.

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