The chair of Winnipeg’s police board says officials are trying to find a way to conduct what he calls a meaningful search for the bodies of two First Nations women believed to be in a landfill north of the city.
The police board met on Thursday evening with police Chief Danny Smyth and senior police inspectors to discuss the calls to search the Prairie Green landfill in the rural municipality of Rosser.
“We’re also going to consult with industry experts, whether it’s forensic anthropologists, whether its waste management experts, whether its excavating experts,” St. Norbert-Seine River Coun. Markus Chambers, the police board chair, told CBC News on Friday.
Any search of that landfill would be beyond the expertise of the Winnipeg Police Service because it would involve excavation, he said.
Smyth said last week that he believes the remains of two women allegedly killed by Jeremy Skibicki are in the privately operated landfill north of the city, but that a search wouldn’t be feasible at this point.
WATCH | Prairie Green landfill, north of Winnipeg, seen from above:
That ignited calls by First Nations advocacy groups and family members for Smyth to resign.
Chambers said companies with expertise are approaching the city with offers to help, and the city is consulting with all levels of government to discuss next steps.
“Anything is possible. It does take resources,” he said.
Jeremy Skibicki was charged last week with first-degree murder in the deaths of Marcedes Myran, Morgan Harris and a third woman, whom community members have named Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe or Buffalo Woman, because police do not know her identity.
Skibicki was initially charged in May with first-degree murder in the death of Rebecca Contois, 24, another First Nations woman living in Winnipeg. Her remains were found near Skibicki’s home and at the city’s Brady Road landfill.
While police don’t yet know where Buffalo Woman’s remains are, they believe Harris’s and Myran’s are at Prairie Green, just north of the Perimeter Highway.
As for the calls for Smyth’s resignation, Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham told CBC Manitoba Information Radio host Marcy Markusa Friday morning that is not his focus right now.
“I can absolutely appreciate the feeling in the community,” he did say.
Gillingham and Premier Heather Stefanson announced earlier on Thursday that Prairie Green has paused its operations, with no new materials to be added to the site.
That halt will continue “until next steps can be determined,” Gillingham told Markusa on Friday.
“We don’t know what those next steps are right now. I haven’t, certainly, predetermined that.”
He wants more information about what a search would entail, while hearing from the families of the missing women and Indigenous leaders “will also be very important in the next steps of this process,” he said.
Gillingham intends to make some calls to the families and leaders on Friday.
Chambers wants any search that is conducted to go beyond being “performative.”
“It is at this point bringing comfort to a family and to a community that has been grieving for so long with respect to the injustices that they’ve experienced,” he said.
Gillingham expressed sorrow and condolences to the families “walking through this very, very difficult journey at this time” and the Indigenous leaders supporting them.
“For all of Winnipeg, this has, and rightly so, gone to the core of our soul as a city,” he said.
“We just cannot accept this. We have to do more to protect Indigenous women and girls.”