The federal government is putting up $500,000 for a feasibility study into a potential search for the remains of two Indigenous women at a Winnipeg-area landfill.
Marc Miller, the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, says the money will help the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs work with experts, police and other levels of government to examine the feasibility of a search.
Police believe the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran were sent to the Prairie Green landfill, north of Winnipeg, last spring.
The two women are among four alleged victims of Jeremy Skibicki, who has been charged with first-degree murder.
Police initially rejected the idea of a search, citing the passage of time, the lack of a precise location within the landfill and the tonnes of material that have been deposited in the area.
After public pressure, an Indigenous-led committee was put together to examine whether a search is feasible.
“We anticipate that the work ahead will be emotionally and spiritually demanding for all involved, and as we continue to move forward at an expedient pace, we remind all those affected by this tragedy to ensure they are accessing the supports available,” Grand Chief Cathy Merrick of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said in a written statement Wednesday.
Skibicki is also accused of killing Rebecca Contois, whose partial remains were found in a different landfill, and an unidentified woman, whom Indigenous leaders have named Buffalo woman.
Skibicki did not enter a plea during a court appearance in December 2022, but his lawyer said he maintains his innocence and a trial is likely some time away.
A forensic expert has said a search of the landfill might succeed, although there are no guarantees.
Despite the passage of time and other material at the landfill, signs of any human remains may be visible to trained searchers, said Tracy Rogers, director of the forensic science program at the University of Toronto Mississauga.