Police won’t search for the remains of murdered Indigenous women
The remains of three out of four Indigenous women believed to have been victims of a suspected serial killer in Canada are still missing ― and despite repeated calls from the community for authorities to search a local dump, police have refused to do so .
Police in Winnipeg ― the capital of the Canadian province of Manitoba ― arrested Jeremy Skibicki, 35, on May 18 in connection with the murder of Rebecca Contois, 24, who was a member of the O-Chi-Chak -First Ko-Sipi Nation (Crane River). Contois’s partial remains were found in a trash can at Winnipeg’s Brady landfill, authorities say.
On December 1, police also charged Skibicki with first-degree murder in the deaths of three other Indigenous women between March and May. Morgan Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26, were both Winnipeg residents who belonged to Long Plain First Nation. Police have yet to identify the fourth woman, but members of the indigenous community have given her the ceremonial name Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe ― or “Buffalo Woman” ― to honor her spirit.
On Tuesday, Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth said at a press conference that he believes the remains belonging to Harris and Myran were in a different landfill, at the Prairie Green landfill, north of the city, but that the police would not search the site because of what he said be potential chemical hazards, soil conditions and months of waste buildup.
Harris’ daughters, Kera, 18, and Cambria Harris, 21, blasted police on Tuesday for refusing to search the dump when he knew the women’s remains were likely there. The two said police gave them a PowerPoint presentation explaining why they would not be looking for their mother who disappeared in May, according to Canadian public broadcaster CBC.
“I disagree with the way this is being handled,” Kera Harris said at a press conference broadcast by CBC. “How can you even imagine the idea of leaving them there?” These women deserve a proper resting place, not to be left alone in a dump in the middle of winter.
“If you can’t find them, why didn’t you ask for help?” she continued. “Why can’t you ask for help across the country rather than asking a small number of people to do the research?”
The sisters traveled to Ottawa, Canada’s capital, last week to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and demand that officials search for the remains of Harris and Myran at the landfill, according to Al Jazeera. Trudeau told them the federal government was ready to provide research assistance.
Cambria and Kera Harris told the outlet that their mother was a ‘strong and resilient woman’ who came through the disproportionately Indigenous foster care system in Canada and had five children before being placed in foster care themselves due to his struggle with addiction which eventually led to homelessness.
“She tried. She was in and out of treatment centers,” Cambria Harris told Al Jazeera. “She absolutely tried to survive.”
Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said last week that he believes all levels of government have failed Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people for centuries, which some Indigenous members of the LGBTQ community identify themselves.
“It is not on a day like this that we can sit here and congratulate ourselves on what we have done as a government. Obviously, that wasn’t enough. Miller said last Tuesday. “It is very confusing to hear that this landfill will not be searched. … Clearly, the federal government must play a role in an area where jurisdiction is a poisonous word and continues to kill Indigenous women and children in this country.
On Thursday, Long Plain First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson called for Smyth’s resignation over his refusal to conduct the police search of the Prairie Green landfill.
“With the violence directed at these Indigenous women evident, the message Danny Smyth sends to the community at large is, ‘Indigenous women don’t matter,'” Wilson said in his statement. “With his quick dismissal and lack of support, he further perpetuates violence against Indigenous women.”
Smyth responded in a letter to Indigenous leadership organizations, including Long Plain First Nation, saying he was ‘open to exploring’ whether it is possible to salvage Harris and Myran’s remains from the dump after speaking with the Winnipeg Police Board and Mayor Scott Gillingham.
“I remain committed to actions that prevent the victimization and exploitation of women, and I support efforts that bring respect and dignity to women, their families, and the wider MMIWG2S+ community,” Smyth wrote.
“I have heard the calls from families, Indigenous leaders and the community. I understand your appeals; the pain and grief is unimaginable,” he continued. “As Chief of Police, I am committed to securing a criminal conviction for these heinous crimes. I want justice for Rebecca, Marcedes, Morgan and Buffalo Woman. I will not quit.”
The Huffington Gt