A Winnipeg city councillor says the city needs to find a resolution soon as protesters continue to block the entrance to the Brady Road Landfill, but protesters said Thursday they have no plans to leave, and no plans to move until the landfill is searched for human remains.
“We’re not stopping, we’re not moving until it is searched,” Tre Delaronde said on a windy and frigid Thursday morning in Winnipeg, while standing at the encampment and blockade currently set up at the entrance to the Brady Road Landfill.
“We’re going to keep going straight through until summer or until fall if we have to, but we are not leaving, and we are not stopping until the search begins.”
Delaronde, along with fellow protester Tom McNeil and others have been set up at an encampment and blockade at the landfill entrance for more than 10 days, and the facility has now been closed since Dec. 18, as they continue, along with advocates and family members of missing Indigenous women and girls, to call for a search of the landfill for human remains.
The calls come just weeks after Winnipeg police (WPS) announced they believe four Indigenous women were murdered earlier this year by Jeremy Skibicki, a man WPS allege is a serial killer, and who is behind bars charged with four counts of first-degree murder.
The remains of Rebecca Contois, one of the women Skibicki is alleged to have killed, were discovered in the Brady Road Landfill earlier this year, while WPS said they believe the remains of victims Morgan Harris and Mercedes Myran are now in the Prairie Green Landfill near Stony Mountain.
Skibicki is also accused of killing a fourth woman who remains unidentified and who community members have been referring to as Buffalo Woman.
Delaronde said they want the Brady Road Landfill searched because of recent murders, but also because of the amount of Indigenous women and girls who have gone missing over the last several decades.
“Our women have been disappearing since the 1970s and even further back, and many believe that the landfills are where they are ending up, so it’s sad because it’s like they are being dumped like trash, but our women are not trash,” he said.
“And it’s time to search. We have been searching the river and the river banks and the inner-city for years and we don’t seem to find our women, so there needs to be a search of these landfills, and of this landfill.”
He said they plan to stay and also plan to expand the encampment in the coming days and weeks.
“We will have teepees arriving for meetings and ceremonies,” Delaronde said. “And I am confident that if we stay here long enough and stay here with resistance they will eventually send professional search teams with the right equipment and technology to find the remains of our missing women and girls.”
Winnipeg Coun. Brian Mayes who is chair of the city’s Water and Waste department said Thursday the city is in talks with protesters as they look for a resolution, but said he does not believe the landfill can remain closed for an indefinite period of time, because of the strain it is already causing financially, and for those who work in the waste industry.
“We need to continue to talk, but it can’t go on forever,” Mayes said. “We only have the one landfill that services Winnipeg, and there certainly is a cost every day it remains closed.
“There is lost revenue from fees, and the fact is we are still picking up garbage from a couple hundred thousand homes, and we have to put it somewhere.”
Mayes added he is trying to get figures to quantify what the closure is costing the city and the waste companies with city contracts, while trash gets diverted to other landfills in Manitoba.
Mayes said he is currently not part of direct discussions with protesters on behalf of the city, but said he knows officials are talking with the protesters and seeking solutions that can get all or parts of the landfill opened back up.
“I am sympathetic to the cause and the history behind it, and I don’t in any way want to enflame the situation,” Mayes said.
“But at some point, this has to be resolved.”
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun