AMC Issues a Statement on Premier Stefanson’s Announcement to Withhold Support for the Prairie Green Landfill Search
July 6, 2023
Treaty One Territory, Manitoba
Treaty One Territory, Manitoba – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) expresses disappointment and disbelief over the Premier’s refusal to co-fund the search for Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran, and Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe. This decision disregards and disrespects the lives of First Nations individuals, families, and nations. It also continues to perpetuate the social injustice and inequality of First Nations by the Provincial Government, whose mandate is to protect Manitobans morally and ethically, which must include First Nations Peoples
The AMC was deeply disheartened to learn that despite the collaborative approach commenced early on in December 2022 with an Oversight Committee comprised of Grand Chief Merrick, Chief Kyra Wilson of Long Plain First Nation, relatives of the victims, Premier Stefanson, and two provincial cabinet ministers, the province announced a decision that undermines reconciliation efforts and major breach of the partnership and dedicated engagement process. The AMC remains committed to pushing forward despite this setback.
Rather than reach out to and work with the federal government on this important matter, Manitoba is unilaterally refusing to fund the humane search and recovery efforts and instead has informed the impacted families that they will invest in mental health supports to assist them in their grieving process and the construction of a memorial.
The AMC firmly believes that the government’s inaction and denial to commit funds send a distressing message across the province and the country that First Nations’ lives do not matter to the provincial government. The refusal to provide funding for the search perpetuates the pain and anguish experienced by the victims’ families. It undermines the efforts toward reconciliation and meaningful partnerships between the government and First Nations.
The AMC firmly believes the feasibility study specifically and adequately addressed safety concerns. Witnessing the Premier utilizing safety concerns as a feeble excuse to withhold support is frustrating and disheartening. Safety can be addressed and mitigated, as evidenced by the comprehensive feasibility study conducted for this purpose. Not once did the provincial representatives express safety concerns during the drafting of the feasibility study and there was ample opportunity for all members to share comments and queries. Safety measures have been outlined, and the province’s refusal to support the search based on perceived risks undermines the exhaustive work carried out by technical experts.
“The feasibility study was conducted with utmost care and precision, aiming to address and mitigate any potential risks associated with the search,” said Chief Kyra Wilson. “It is truly disheartening to witness the provincial government utilizing the risks we answered to as an excuse to withhold support. It suggests the study was demanded as a simple stall tactic. We refuse to accept that these bureaucratic hesitations should hinder our search for these victims. We will persist and demand the action these women and their loved ones deserve.”
“I implore the Premier of Manitoba to reflect on the values of compassion, justice, and respect for the lives of all Manitobans, including those of First Nations,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. “Safety has always been our utmost priority. As leaders, we must acknowledge that searching for loved ones buried in unmarked graves goes beyond the financial considerations it takes to conduct a safe search. It is a human act of compassion and justice that their remains be returned to their families for a proper burial at their home community and allow closure for all.”
The AMC remains resolute in its commitment to advocating for the funding necessary to search the Prairie Green Landfill thoroughly. We call upon the Premier to demonstrate human compassion for and to recognize the significance of finding justice for Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran, and Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe and to collaborate with the federal government, the AMC and Long Plain First Nation to ensure that these women find their rightful homes and not resolve to leave them in a landfill. Their lives were tragically cut short, and their families deserve closure and the opportunity to lay their loved ones to rest.
The AMC eagerly awaits a response from the Premier and federal Minister Marc Miller, expressing a commitment to addressing this issue and demonstrating a genuine dedication to the well-being and justice for First Nations Peoples.
For more information, please contact:
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
About the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
The AMC was formed in 1988 by the Chiefs in Manitoba to advocate on issues that commonly affect First Nations in Manitoba. AMC is an authorized representative of 62 of the 63 First Nations in Manitoba with a total of more than 151,000 First Nation citizens in the province, accounting for approximately 12 percent of the provincial population. AMC represents a diversity of Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Nehetho / Ininew (Cree), Anishininew (Ojibwe-Cree), Denesuline (Dene) and Dakota Oyate (Dakota) people.