Hundreds of people gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery Wednesday night to show solidarity with the families of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran whose bodies are believed to be in a Winnipeg landfill.
“Just seeing our loved ones and seeing Cambria Harris, the daughter of one of the murdered women, for over six months, on the front lines wanting to find her mother, wanting to get justice and there’s an outcry,” said Jerilyn Snuxyaltwa Webster, one of the vigil organizers.
“As Indigenous people on the West Coast, we stand in solidarity because so many of our loved ones go missing and murdered.”
Last month after Manitoba 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 — calls for #SearchTheLandfill grew.
On Twitter the hashtag has been used in over 16,000 tweets in the last 7 days and a petition calling for the landfill to be searched has almost 60,000 signatures.
“They’re advocating, they’re standing on the frontlines asking the government, telling the government to clear the landfill … it’s appalling the government isn’t doing anything,” said Annita McPhee, another vigil organizer. “The most frustrating part of this, Indigenous women feel they aren’t valued while they’re alive, and even now they can’t give the families the peace they deserve.”
While searching a landfill isn’t easy, landfills have been searched before. In 2021, the remains of Nathaniel Brettell were found in an Ontario landfill after a several-month long search.
“We feel like its racially driven,” said McPhee. “Yes they say it costs too much money, its dangerous, but they’ve done it for others … you just have to look at the history of what’s happened to Indigenous women and you know we’re not valued in Canada and that’s the saddest part of this.”
At Wednesday’s vigil, the organizers and community members covered themselves in garbage bags to illustrate how Indigenous women are being treated.
“It just hit us so hard, to not look for us, to not look for those Indigenous women is to say to us Indigenous women, that we’re trash,” said Webster. “But we’re not trash, we’re not garbage and you shouldn’t be treating us like this.”
“It still hurts my heart, what if it was your mom, sister, auntie — they need to do the right thing and look for them.”
The calls for #SearchTheLandfill are growing louder and events are being held across the country; Wednesday’s in Vancouver, Thursday’s in Winnipeg and one is planned for Saturday in St. John’s.
Despite the calls growing louder, many say they’re falling on deaf ears.
On Aug. 1 the province of Manitoba announced the release of an MMIWG2s license plate saying it was “part of its ongoing commitment to reconciliation and support of MMIWG2S issues.”
Advocates say otherwise, “that’s a message of tokenism,” said Webster.
“We do the work as Indigenous people, we gather, we heal ourselves, we go on the searches and its the police and the governments that don’t honour or listen to us … we are not being heard, but we will not be silent, we will always step forward.”
McPhee adds, “We keep hearing its too much money or it takes too much time, there’s always excuses as to why our women aren’t valuable enough to look for and that’s not right.”