Manitoba legislature rally calls for landfill search amid national protests

Hundreds came out on Monday to a rally at the Manitoba legislature in support of a search of Prairie Green Landfill for two murdered Indigenous women. The rally was part of a national day of action with parallel protests in major cities across the country.

“If your granddaughter or your daughter was sitting in a landfill and nobody wanted to look for her, what would you do? You’d be crying and fighting, and that’s what we’re doing,” said Donna Bartlett, grandmother of Marcedes Myran.

“Close your eyes and think if your granddaughter or your daughter was sitting in a landfill, and nobody wanted to look for her.”

Bartlett made a passionate plea asking the province to bring her granddaughter home. This is just the latest in a series of protests after Manitoba’s PC government refused to support a search for Myran and Morgan Harris in July.

“She’s out in a landfill, and (Heather) Stefanson doesn’t want to go look for her. If it was her granddaughter, her daughter, she would look right away,” Bartlett added.

Meanwhile, protester Robyn Johnston accused the province of not following its own policies on reconciliation.

“Why does the provincial government get to say they are only going to apply this act when it suits them? Nowhere in this legislation does it say they can refuse if it costs too much money,” Johnston said.

“How many posters need to be drawn? How many sleepless nights will people have to endure? How many tears need to be shed? How many more lives will be ruined? How many more women, girls and two-spirited people must die before she actually starts to act like the leader she is supposed to and lead with dignity for herself, dignity as a parent and dignity for others?”

Stefanson, the PC leader, reiterated her party’s approach to the calls for a landfill search when asked by 680 CJOB’s Richard Cloutier at a live radio debate on Monday. Speaking on concerns related to safety and whether or not a search would even be successful, she stated that her government would not go ahead with a search.

Much of that, she noted, was based on worries over toxic chemicals she said were in the landfill.

“This has been a very difficult decision,” Stefanson said. “I would love to be able to say yes to everything but because of safety reasons the answer just has to be no.”

But as the government continued with an answer it’s been giving since July, when a landfill search feasibility report was first released, several labour leaders have also thrown their support behind calls for the landfill search. Gina Smoke, an Indigenous liaison with Canada’s largest private-sector union, Unifor, said she doesn’t buy Stefanson’s reason for not searching.

“There shouldn’t be a problem to get out there and start searching. The minute they knew there were women in this landfill, they should have stopped dumping garbage in there,” Smoke said.

“We have members that do hazardous work across the country. We all know how to be safe when it comes to working with hazardous materials.”

Following the rally, a smaller group laid a red dress on the legislature’s statue of Queen Elizabeth.

They then briefly disrupted traffic at Portage and Main before heading to The Forks to pay their respects at the monument for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, hoping their message will be heard loudly — right across the country.

Ahead of the Oct. 3 election, both NDP Leader Wab Kinew and Liberal Party Leader Dougald Lamont said they would support a search of the landfill.

“We’ve talked to the experts. They know it can be done safely. If there is a problem of toxic chemicals in the landfill, it means that our landfill shouldn’t be that way either. This is about fundamental justice,”  Lamont said when asked how the Liberal Party would approach calls for a search at the debate on Monday. “They’re also Manitobans.”

— with files from Global’s Katherine Dornian

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