I’ve been spending time in Winnipeg for work, and it has allowed me to check in with the large Indigenous community here.
A few steps away from my hotel, at the forks of the Assiniboine and Red rivers, stands Camp Marcedes in honour of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. It’s named after Marcedes Myran, whose remains are believed to be at the Brady Landfill.
As political parties campaign for the upcoming elections in Manitoba, family members of Myran, community members and allies keep the sacred fire going every day to protest Progressive Conservative Premier Heather Stefanson’s decision not to search the landfill for the victims of serial killer Jeremy Skibicki.
I sit at the fire often to hear songs and talk to the people tending to the camp. Some of them are there because they lost a daughter under mysterious circumstances or due to the opioid crisis raging in the city. Winnipeg is not only jeopardizing the lives of Indigenous women and girls, but the city is also failing the collateral victims in not honouring their dignity – another ongoing cycle of trauma for Indigenous people.
During rallies and events in support of the search for Marcedes Myran and Morgan Harris at the Brady Landfill, it hit me: I cannot believe I have to protest the province’s decision to keep dumping garbage on my Indigenous sisters. By attending these events, I find out it’s now an electoral issue.
The problem is that governments always act as if it’s an Indigenous claims debate rather than human rights violations that they are responsible to address under Canadian laws and principles. A dump is not a suitable resting place for anyone. In murder trials, no body means no case. Why is the justice system ready to settle with a trial in which crucial pieces of evidence won’t be available?
I know what it feels like not to have closure in a relative’s death nor to have a proper burial site where I can pay my respects. I know how it affects families even years after the events.
At the latest rally for MMIWG2S, Tina Fontaine’s sibling was very clear on this issue. Not only did this country fail Tina at several moments in her life, but it keeps failing her family by not thoroughly investigating her death and charging the prime suspect in her case.
As I walk the streets here, I often wonder what healing will look like for the city of Winnipeg. Here, the trauma, the hurt and the consequences of colonization are so obvious it brings nothing but rage to my heart and pure love for my kin. When it becomes unbearable, I go back to the sacred fire at Camp Marcedes and sit there with my thoughts.
But mourning the loss of my sisters is not enough; the tragedy of the Brady Landfill serves as a stark reminder that there is much work to be done. It is a call to action, a plea for justice, and a promise that we will not forget the Indigenous lives who have been lost.