New Premier of Manitoba has promised to search the landfill for the remains of Indigenous women

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Video: Kinew: “Searching the landfill is an important step toward delivering justice in Manitoba.” (August 9, 2023)

On October 3, Wabanakwut “Wab” Kinew was elected the new Premier with an NDP majority government in the province of Manitoba.

On August 9, Kinew promised that if elected Premier his government would move forward on the search of the Prairie Green landfill for the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran. The month before, Kinew also stated: “We have to try. We should make a good faith attempt to find the remains of these women.”

Video: Chief Kyra Wilson: “What we need to do in the province of Manitoba, because they are the only ones who said they did not want to help us searching the landfill, so October 3 we have a new election, a provincial election, so we need to vote out Heather Stefanson, we need a new government.” (August 3, 2023)

Marcedes and Morgan were murdered in May 2022.

In December 2022, the Winnipeg Police Service announced it would not search the landfill for their remains. That same month, the RCMP also told federal officials that police are not equipped to conduct such a search. In July 2023, Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said it was not “viable” to search the landfill.

Camp Morgan was set up at the Brady Road landfill in December 2022. A blockade they had set up was dismantled by Winnipeg Police on July 18. Camp Marcedes was set up shortly afterwards at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.

A study led by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) says a search is feasible at a cost of up to $184 million over three years.

Kinew has commented: “I know a lot of folks are saying $180 million is a lot of money [but] these are families who are already grieving. These are families who are experiencing tremendous loss. And regardless of how statements are crafted, and words are delivered in public, these folks feel as though the human dignity of their moms is not being respected.”

Photo: Marcedes Myran and Morgan Harris. 

In late September, during the election campaign, Stefanson launched an ad campaign, including billboards and a full-page ad in the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper, that stated: “Stand firm. For health and safety reasons, the answer on the landfill dig just has to be no.”

Kinew is Anishinaabe, a member of the Onigaming First Nation in northwestern Ontario and was raised in Winnipeg.

In 2015, he wrote The Reason You Walk: A Memoir, which describes the damage the residential school program did to his father, Tobasonakwut, who was sexually assaulted by a nun at St. Mary’s Indian Residential School, located about 60 kilometres east of Vancouver.

Kinew’s father who died in 2012 was not allowed to vote as a young man under Canadian law at the time. In Manitoba, Indigenous peoples were granted the right to vote in provincial and territorial elections in 1952. In July 1960, First Nations peoples were granted the right to vote in federal elections without having to give up their treaty rights and Indian status.

Kinew becomes the first First Nations premier of a province and the second Indigenous person to be a Premier (John Norquay, who was Métis, was the premier of Manitoba from 1878 to 1887). The Canadian Constitution recognizes three groups of Indigenous peoples: North American Indian (more commonly referred to as First Nations), Inuit (Inuk) and Métis. 

It has not yet been announced when Kinew will be sworn in as the Premier of Manitoba and when the search of the landfill will begin.

On August 9, CityNews reported: “Kinew says if the NDP are elected, he hopes a search will start soon after the party forms government.”

Photo: Cambria Harris, Morgan’s daughter, at the national day of action event on Parliament Hill, September 18, 2023.

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