‘Heartless’: Federal Crown-Indigenous relations minister criticizes Manitoba’s landfill search decision

Canada’s Crown-Indigenous relations minister has criticized the Manitoba government for its decision to not search a landfill for the bodies of two murdered Indigenous women.

During a speech to Manitoba members of the Assembly of First Nations in Halifax, Marc Miller said they need to try to search the Prairie Green landfill, located near Stony Mountain.

“My reflection on this is that this has been dealt with in quite a heartless way, quite frankly,” Miller said. “We do absolutely have to try as a federal government.”

The bodies of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran are believed to have been dumped in Prairie Green Landfill. Families have been calling for the search of the landfill after Winnipeg police found the partial remains of Rebecca Contois last year in Winnipeg’s Brady Landfill.

Last week, the province responded to a feasibility study on a search of Prairie Green, which determined a search of the landfill would cost up to $184 million, could take up to three years, is not guaranteed to be successful and could pose health risks to searchers due to toxic chemicals.

However, the feasibility study says not searching the landfill could cause significant distress to the families of Harris and Myran.

A blockade has been in place on the main road to the Brady Landfill since Thursday.

In a statement sent on July 6, Stefanson cited long-term health and safety concerns as a reason to not go forward with a search.

“Based on the report, we cannot knowingly risk Manitoba workers’ health and safety for a search without a guarantee,” Stefanson said in a written statement.

Stefanson has also said a search of the landfill rests with Ottawa, but Miller told the AFN that the decision from Manitoba makes any decision from the federal government this summer “logistically impossible”

“We’ve lost a window this summer to get something done and get down to business,” he said.

Miller said the federal government is willing to be involved in a search and has experience in searching areas with dangerous materials and garbage dumps.

“The reality is that if Manitoba wanted, the will was there to do it alone, they could without the federal government, but we’re not saying do it alone; we’re saying we’re willing to work with you,” he said.

In an email to CTV News, a spokesperson for the premier’s office said Stefanson has been clear on the province’s position regarding the search and has done so while showing compassion to the victims’ families.

“It’s time for the federal government to show leadership and provide clarity. Everyone is looking to the federal government to make their decision,” the spokesperson said.

They said any decision made by the federal government should consider the health and safety risks outlined in the feasibility study.

“Our government acknowledges this final decision is undoubtedly heartbreaking for the families, which is why we will continue to support them, and invest in programming to prevent these tragedies from happening.”

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