Rally on Parliament Hill as Fall Session Begins

Hundreds of people gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, September 18, to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and two-spirited persons and to demand that two Winnipeg landfills be searched to bring four sisters in spirit home. They are Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran, Tanya Nepinak and one yet to be identified referred to as Mashkode Bizhiki'ikwe [Buffalo Woman].

Cambria, the daughter of Morgan Harris put the problem at hand succinctly. "It's a sad statement when we have to gather like this to have our voices heard in such a matter of basic human dignity," she said.

She and family members of Marcedes Myran as well as Manitoba Grand Chief Cathy Merrick of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Long Plain First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson, and others, were invited to meet with the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations on September 18. Cambria decried the meeting pointing out that besides being retraumatized, they were told that more questions on the feasibility of the search needed to be answered before anything could be done. When asked, "What questions?" the Minister could not say.

The Manitoba government has refused to pay for the search, citing safety issues and the Assemblies have been asked for "feasibility studies," which the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has provided. Cambria's response underscored the brutality of government stalling behind the veneer of doing its duty. She said: "Nowhere in Canada, in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world has a family been asked to present a feasibility study to prove their loved-one is worth finding."

"Each level of government, not just provincial, but federal and municipal, has a role in retrieving these women. My mother's treaty rights are being violated. She needs a proper burial, a proper ceremony, she's stuck between this world and the spirit world because she doesn't have a proper burial," Cambria said. "Why are all levels of government beating around the bush and pointing fingers at one another because they can't figure out how to search the landfills among themselves. We have figured it out, we did the feasibility studies, we have proven that my mother is worth searching for. If the government does not, then the community will go and retrieve my loved-ones," she said.

"To leave Indigenous women in a dump sets a precedent that if any one of our members goes missing, they will not consider for a second to go looking for us," Cambria said. "This contributes to the normalization of Indigenous genocide. This problem is not strictly Indigenous, it is a problem which concerns Canadians as a whole," she concluded.

Cambria, along with other members of the community, set up Camp Morgan in December 2022 near the Brady landfill to demand that it be searched. As of September 18 the camp had been maintained for 274 days. In July they set up a second camp, Camp Marcedes, next to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Morgan Harris' aunt, Melissa Robinson, said: "We're not going to accept no for an answer, we're going to keep fighting and pushing for all our women right across Turtle Island, all the landfills are going to be searched and everyone is going to come home. Even after death, we owe that much to our women. They deserve that dignity, that proper burial. I will not go to my death knowing I have a family member, my young cousin Morgan, laying in a landfill. If it comes down to us doing the work, then we're going to do it. Like my niece Cambria said, give us the shovels, we'll go in, we'll do it, we will bring them home."

Speaker after speaker spoke from the heart saying this is an issue which concerns the entire Canadian polity. As they spoke, the parliament buildings loomed eerily, almost ominously, in the background. It was hard to fathom that the first day of the fall sitting of Parliament was taking place inside, and that a matter the government has sworn its commitment to -- the murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls -- was not on its agenda.

Last fall, all the parties sitting in Parliament had an historical opportunity to adopt a motion that MPs stop swearing allegiance to the king of England, the very symbol of British colonial racism and genocidal acts against the Indigenous Nations. The Liberals and Conservatives in particular vociferously opposed the motion saying they had more immediate priorities and that constitutional order was the most important thing to preserve. They categorically refuse to discuss matters of concern to the people while they try to cover up that they are complicit in perpetuating the colonial order that permits such atrocities as women and girls being murdered and thrown into landfills.

Canadians from all walks of life demand justice for the families of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls and two-spirited people.

It Can Be Done!
Search the Landfills!

(Photos: TML, Peace Brigades International, L. Gazan, D. Deby, B. Hendry)

This article was published in
Volume 53 Number 9 - October 2023

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