Police are to be part of a committee led by First Nations groups to determine the feasibility of recovering the remains of two Indigenous women believed to in a landfill outside Winnipeg.
First Nations leaders met with Winnipeg’s chief of police Wednesday to discuss a potential search of the Prairie Green landfill after police declined to search the area because they say the chances of finding the two women are low.
Read more: Winnipeg police chief not stepping down amid pressure to search for Indigenous homicide victims
Long Plain First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson said the meeting with police Chief Danny Smyth was a “first step in the right direction.”
“I’m just waiting to see what the action is going to be after this meeting,” Wilson said. “And, continuing to move forward, if the support is going to be there from the chief of police.”
Smyth said in a statement that he is supportive of the collaborative efforts being led by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs to recover the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran, who police believe are the victims of an alleged serial killer.
Police will be assigning an officer to work on the committee, which will include outside experts. The role of that officer is yet to be determined, Wilson said.
Several First Nations groups in the province are forming the committee to put together a search and budget plan that will then be presented to different levels of government.
Read more: First Nations leaders call for resignation of Winnipeg police chief amid landfill controversy
They have called on Ottawa to help in their next steps.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during question period Wednesday that the federal government will look to provide support, but didn’t say in what capacity.
“Canadians’ hearts are breaking for the terrible news coming out of Winnipeg on more missing and murdered Indigenous women. This is absolutely unacceptable,” he said.
“We see the level of pain and the federal government will took to do whatever we can to support the province, the city and whoever needs support.”
Jeremy Skibicki is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Harris, Myran, Rebecca Contois and a fourth unidentified woman who Indigenous leaders have called Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or Buffalo Woman.
Read more: Manager of private landfill, where slain Winnipeg women are believed to be, offers condolences
Police believe the women were killed over a two-month period in the spring, although only Contois’ body has been found.
Her partial remains were discovered in a garbage bin in the city and in another landfill in the spring.
Days after officers announced the three new charges against Skibicki, Smyth publicly stated the force would not be searching the Prairie Green landfill because of the time that had passed, as well as the heavy, compacted mud at the site. His statements were met with anger and calls of his resignation from First Nations leaders and Harris’ family.
Wilson said Smyth apologized during their meeting and family members were present.
“He did recognize that he made a mistake in terms of making that comment,” she said. “I was grateful that he acknowledged that the wording that he used was inappropriate.”
Wilson added the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and Winnipeg police needs repairing, and work should be done toward addressing safety for vulnerable populations.
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