Mennonite Church Canada, along with the regional churches, has issued a statement calling on “all levels of government” to support a search of the Prairie Green Landfill near Winnipeg for the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran, two murdered Indigenous women who are believed to be buried there.
The Sept. 1 document comes after similar calls from the United Church of Canada, as well as national Lutheran, Anglican and Presbyterian bodies. Representatives of the churches gathered with Indigenous leaders and families of the murdered women for a public event just outside Winnipeg on Sept. 5. People from at least eight Mennonite Church Manitoba congregations attended the event.
A feasibility study commissioned by an Indigenous-led committee said the remains of the women are likely contained within an area of the landfill that is 200 metres by 100 metres and 10 metres deep. Further dumping in that area was halted on June 20, 2022, when police came to the belief that that was the location of the bodies. Police believe the bodies were dumped there on May 16, 2022.
The study stated: “A search of the Prairie Green Landfill is feasible, but there are considerable risks due to exposure to toxic chemicals and asbestos.” A “successful outcome,” it states, “is not guaranteed.”
The study says a search could take between 12 and 36 months and could cost between $84 and $184 million, depending on the duration. Workers in hazmat suits would sift through up to 7,200 dump truck loads of material on a conveyor belt in a 23,000 square-foot building constructed at the site for the purpose.
The report also mentions the societal costs of doing nothing, which are more difficult to quantify but significant.
In a community impact statement included in the report, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs writes: “We as a community do not deserve to be told we are trash.”
Family members of the two murdered women were informed by police last Dec. 5 that the remains of the women were most likely in the landfill and that the police would not be conducting a search. In February, Ottawa announced funds for a feasibility study, with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs as the responsible organization.
Manitoba premier Heather Stefanson says the province will not fund the search. She has cited health risks for searchers as a reason. Ottawa has urged Manitoba to provide funding but is not willing to go ahead without provincial participation.
The MC Canada statement reads as follows:
As leaders within Mennonite Church Canada, we join the voices of our siblings in Christ calling for justice for Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran and for an end to the violence against Indigenous women, children, and Two-Spirit people.
We urge all levels of government to support a search of Prairie Green Landfill for the remains of these two beloved children of God.
We are grateful to those within the Mennonite Church Canada family who have been showing active and practical support in solidarity with these efforts, as well as to those in other denominations who have carried the call for solidarity into the public sphere.
In a communique put out by MC Manitoba after the Sept. 5 event, Jonathan Neufeld, Indigenous relations coordinator for MC Canada, said the following:
“May our collective attention to injustice waged against Indigenous communities not be as short-sighted as the media cycle but sustained and focused on the good way of reconciliation.”
Under the heading, “Making Space for Ceremony, Elders and Family,” the feasibility study report reads: “Until Marcedes and Morgan are properly returned home, these women, their families and all our communities endure a sacrilege. To this end, the entirety of the [Prairie Green Landfill] project is a ceremony, and the entire project must begin and end with ceremony.”
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