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Canadian governments commit millions to landfill search for remains of slain Indigenous women

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) — Canada’s federal government and the provincial Manitoba government agreed Friday to spend tens of millions to help search a landfill for the remains of two slain Indigenous women.

A sum of $20 million Canadian (US$14.7 million) from each government is to go toward a search of the privately owned Prairie Green landfill north of Winnipeg, where the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran are believed to be.

Cambria Harris, daughter of Morgan Harris, said Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew told her they are going to search every part of the area where her mother is believed to be. She confirmed the amounts.

“I am very grateful,” she said.

Jeremy Skibicki is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Harris, Myran and two other women. The other two are Rebecca Contois, whose partial remains were found in a different landfill, and an unidentified woman Indigenous leaders have named Buffalo Woman. The remains of Buffalo Woman have not been found.

Police in 2022 rejected the idea of a search, in part because of the potential danger from toxic materials and the sheer volume of material at the landfill.

“We’re glad to be able to move forward with the funds necessary to search every cubic meter of the relevant space," Kinew said in a written statement. “While we don’t know if the search will be successful, we have to try.”

An Indigenous-led committee commissioned two reports on the feasibility of a search, which has been estimated to cost $90 million Canadian (US$66 million) if completed within a year.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has previously said the disappearances and deaths of Indigenous women in Canada have too often been treated as a low priority or ignored.

The leader of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said she hopes the governments will fund whatever search efforts may be needed.

"We don’t want to go back and back again to ask that this work be complete,″ Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said.