Canada police say they can’t recover bodies of murdered Indigenous women

Police in Canada have said they don’t have the resources to search a landfill to recover the bodies of two Indigenous women murdered by an alleged serial killer – a decision that has left the daughters of one victim “heartbroken” and angry.

Last week, police in Winnipeg announced that four Indigenous women – Marcedes Myran, Morgan Harris, Rebecca Contois and a fourth woman who they had not identified – were believed to have been killed by an alleged serial killer. Winnipeg police have charged Jeremy Skibicki in their deaths.

But the prospect that the remains of the victims won’t be recovered has prompted disbelief and frustration from families.

“They say they can’t search because it’s unfeasible. Is human life not feasible?” Cambria Harris said at a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday. Earlier this week her family was devastated to learn through a PowerPoint presentation that despite believing the remains of her mother Morgan were located at a nearby landfill, police would not conduct a search.

“Time and time again, our Indigenous women and brothers and sisters have to come here and we have to shout and we have to raise our voices begging for change and begging for justice for our people, and that is wrong.”

Harris said the victims needed a final resting place that wasn’t a landfill.

Kera Harris, who joined sister Cambria in the nation’s capital to meet with lawmakers and officials, called the situation “unfair”.

“These are people you are leaving in the landfill … These are human beings. These women are deserving of a proper resting place, not to be left alone in a landfill in the dead of winter,” she said. “If you won’t look for them, then we will.”

On Tuesday, chief Danny Smyth told reporters they investigators believe the remains of Marcedes Myran and Morgan Beatrice Harris are in Prairie Green Landfill, nearly seven miles north of Winnipeg – not the Brady Landfill, where the remains of Rebecca Contois were found earlier in the year.

Smyth said the city’s forensic unit concluded in June that without a clear starting point to search, there was “no hope” of recovering the women’s remains. Safety hazards and the size of landfill also played a role in police making the “difficult decision” not to search.

When investigators realized the remains of Contois could be at the Brady Landfill over the summer, they quickly shut the facility down – but not before 100 truckloads of garbage had been dropped off.

In the time between the victims bodies being dumped and police learning the other victims could be at Prairie Green, however, 34 days had passed.

“During that time, for comparison, there were 10,000 truckloads that dumped in that same area,” said inspector Cam MacKid with the forensics division.

The garbage at the Brady Landfill where Contois’s remains were found was not compacted or buried, said MacKid. But at Prairie Green, the refuse is compacted by 9,000 tons of construction clay. Police say they don’t yet have a definitive location for the remains of the fourth victim, to whom the local Indigenous community have given the name Buffalo Woman (Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe).

“This tragedy is ongoing. Winnipeg is the epicentre of it. Realizing that this is a systemic issue … is important for Canadians,” Crown–Indigenous relations minister Marc Miller told reporters after meeting with Harris’s family, adding he believed that public outcry over the spate of disappearances “perhaps would be much greater” if the victims weren’t Indigenous.

“It is an absolute shame a person like me has to stand here … and cannot guarantee that this will not happen again. But that’s the reality.”

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