The recent discovery of human remains at the Brady Road landfill this week is bringing back difficult memories for some Indigenous families who have lost loved ones and are still holding out hope of finding them.
“I was really emotional. I want them to continue searching,” Susan Caribou told Global News.
Winnipeg police spent the last two weeks searching the landfill in hope of finding the rest of the remains of recently killed Rebecca Contois.
The 24-year-old’s partial remains were found in a dumpster on Edison Avenue in North Kildonan in mid-May.
Earlier this week, human remains were found during that search, but they have not yet been identified, pending an autopsy. Until that identification happens, Caribou is holding out hope that it could be her missing and believed to be dead niece, Tanya Nepinak.
“I’ve been at home very emotional, waiting for the news, waiting for the name to be released,” she said through tears.
A decade ago, it was Nepinak police were searching the landfill for.
The 31-year-old disappeared in 2011. She left her home to get pizza and never returned.
Police started searching the landfill in October 2012 after the man accused in her death, Shawn Lamb, initially confessed to killing her. But her body was never found and that charge was later stayed for lack of evidence.
Lamb pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter for killing two other women, Carolyn Sinclair and Lorna Blacksmith.
Caribou and her family have begged authorities to continue searching the landfill for their loved one. She said the family hasn’t been able to heal because her niece has never been given a proper burial.
“Maybe they will one day find her up there if they continue searching,” she said. “It’s like she’s forgotten. Everybody deserves a proper burial, a proper closure, and we need a closure.”
According to an RCMP report, Indigenous women are nearly six times more likely to be killed than other women in Canada. In recent weeks, five Indigenous women have been killed in Winnipeg.
“It’s very heartbreaking and it’s tragic,” Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak’s MMIWG liaison director, Heidi Spence said. “It’s difficult. It doesn’t get easier.”
Spence and her team help families around Manitoba who have been impacted by the loss of missing or murdered Indigenous woman. She said the overwhelming loss of lives within the community recently is weighing heavy on many people.
“Everybody’s impacted… it doesn’t just affect, you know, one family. It has that ripple effect,” she said. “It’s very hard not knowing,” she said. “You’re sitting and you’re waiting because, you know, families want answers.”
Families like Nepinak’s have never had the closure they so desperately want and need.
“When they hear of another woman, daughter, sister, auntie, that has been taken… You know, it could take them right back,” Spence said.
While Nepinak’s body has never been found, Winnipeg police have maintained they still believe she was killed at the hand’s of the man they originally arrested and charged.