Assembly of First Nations slams Manitoba’s opposition to Winnipeg landfill search

Click to play video: 'Landfill blockade activists protest injunction at Manitoba Law Courts'
Landfill blockade activists protest injunction at Manitoba Law Courts
While legal proceedings took place to adjourn a city-led injunction to remove the Brady Road blockade, Anishinaabe activist Michael Yellowwing-Kannon protested the action outside the entrance to the law courts on Thursday. Attorney Sasha Paul said service to the landfill is not terminally affected because another route exists. City of Winnipeg Chief Administrative Officer Michael Jacks argued heavy rains will affect the prolonged stability of the alternate road – Jul 13, 2023

The Assembly of First Nations‘ annual general assembly wrapped on Thursday after three hectic days in Halifax with the passing of an emergency resolution over the blockade of a Winnipeg landfill.

The AFN voted unanimously to denounce Manitoba’s opposition to a search of the Prairie Green landfill for the remains of two Indigenous women.

“It was very disappointing that the premier of Manitoba did not support our initiative,” Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Cathy Merrick told assembly.

“Being a mother, (she) should have the heart to support something of this magnitude.”

Click to play video: 'Brady Road landfill blockade holding in place against evacuation order'
Brady Road landfill blockade holding in place against evacuation order

The blockade began at Brady Landfill last week after Premier Heather Stefanson said the province would not support a search of the Prairie Green landfill due to cost, safety risks and no guaranteed success.

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The resolution also slammed the “failures” at all levels of government, as well as law enforcement, to adequately search for and recover the remains of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

“I’m disappointed in Minister (Marc) Miller as to his commitments,” Merrick added. Earlier in the day, the Crown-Indigenous Relations minister affirmed his commitment to end violence against Indigenous women and girls, but did not specifically commit to helping the landfill search move forward.

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The remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran are believed to have been dumped at the Prairie Green landfill.

Jeremy Skibicki faces first-degree murder charges in their deaths as well as for the death of Rebecca Contois, whose remains were found last year at another landfill, and an unidentified woman who is being called Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe or Buffalo Woman, whose remains have not been found.

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What else happened at the general assembly?

A day earlier, the assembly heard findings from a review of gender- and sexual orientation-based discrimination within the AFN, stemming from a 2020 resolution.

The review found that people had experienced uncomfortable situations and harassment both at AFN events and within the organization, including unwanted hugs, hair touching, kissing on the face and cheek without consent, knee and lower back touching, and sexting.

This misconduct has led to a “demoralized work culture,” a lack of confidence in leadership, fear of reprisal, and the need for a safe external reporting process, the document panel said.

Recommendations from the report include establishing an independent office for complaints and investigations, implementing a trauma-informed approach, decolonizing the AFN and returning to the Seven Teachings: love, respect, bravery, truth, honesty, humility and wisdom.

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Also, recently ousted national AFN chief RoseAnne Archibald had joined the meeting virtually as a proxy, but was removed after several turns at the mic due to a lack of “respect.”

Archibald was removed from her position on June 28 when a Special Chiefs Assembly was convened to “report on the findings of a human resources investigation” after being accused of workplace harassment and creating a toxic work environment.

The AFN will meet next in December when it will elect a new national chief.

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