Families of Sisters in Spirit holds gathering on Parliament Hill in support of the call to search the landfills in Winnipeg

Published by Brent Patterson on

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There were red dresses on Parliament Hill in Ottawa yesterday (July 17) to help amplify the call to search the privately-run Prairie Green landfill (garbage dump) north of Winnipeg for the remains of two murdered Indigenous women.

The landfill is where the remains of Long Plain First Nation members Morgan Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26, are believed to be.

They were killed in May 2022.

Bridget Tolley, the founder of the advocacy group Families of Sisters in Spirit and the organizer of the gathering on Parliament Hill, says: “This hurts every day.”

Video: Bridget Tolley.

The Winnipeg Police Service and the Government of Manitoba have refused to conduct a search for the landfill for the two women, citing the expense and the hazards of doing so (despite forensic experts saying the risks of the search could be mitigated).

Grand Chief Cathy Merrick of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says: “Governments cannot allow Morgan and Marcedes to just be added to the staggering statistics of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in this country. They are not garbage, yet they are being treated like garbage – left at a landfill site.”

Journalist Brandi Morin has also challenged Winnipeg police on this, commenting: “Don’t say it isn’t feasible. Don’t say the feds don’t have resources. Cause they sure come up w the resources in a hurry when they send their armies of police in 2 sovereign Indigenous lands like the Wet’suwet’en to restrain them from protecting their territories from a pipeline.”

Seven months ago, in -25C weather, a first blockade was established at the City-run Brady Road landfill. The partial remains of 24-year-old O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi nation member Rebecca Contois had been found there in June 2022.

That blockade transitioned into Camp Morgan, an ongoing presence at the landfill.

On July 6 of this year, family members and supporters set up a second blockade at the landfill. By Friday July 14 a court injunction was issued requiring the blockade to come down later that same day. The blockade was maintained until the morning of Tuesday July 18 when the police moved in and City staff cleared the roadway.

It is now being reported that a second camp will be set-up at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg. It will be called Camp Marcedes.

Peace Brigades International has accompanied organizations and family members search for the remains of forcibly disappeared loved ones in Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala.

In Guatemala, the searches include the exhumation of the remains of Indigenous peoples disappeared by state security forces during the civil war.

In Mexico, the number of forcibly disappeared is more than 112,000 people, a figure that has sharply increased since 2006 and the War on Drugs.

In Colombia, more than 110,000 people were forcibly disappeared during the sixty-year civil war. In the city of Buenaventura, the searches also include looking for family members forcibly disappeared by criminal gangs.

Further reading: Red dresses became a symbol in Canada for missing and murdered Indigenous women after artist Jaime Black saw a demonstration in Bogotá, Colombia in 2010 of women who had experienced people in their families go missing.

Despite recent significant advances in Colombia – including a Comprehensive Bill on the Rights of Women Seekers of the Disappeared – a common theme has been that the state has not done enough to find the remains of those disappeared.

And while the tens of thousands of missing in Guatemala, Mexico and Colombia have been attributed to armed conflict or gangs, the situation on the lands known as Canada have been linked to colonialism.

In December 2015, the Government of Canada launched the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The final report of that National Inquiry released in June 2019 concluded that the high level of violence against First Nations, Inuit and Metis women and girls is “caused by state actions and inactions rooted in colonialism and colonial ideologies” and that the crisis constituted an ongoing “race, identity and gender-based genocide.”

More than 4,000 Indigenous women and girls have been killed or gone missing over the past 30 years in Canada – although the actual number could be much higher. Morin says: “That works out to about 133 a year, or three a week. [But this has] been happening since 1492.”

We continue to follow this.

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