Horror in Winnipeg as another Indigenous woman’s body found in landfill: ‘It keeps happening’

By Leyland Cecco – The Guardian – April 5, 2023

Police in Canada say the body of another Indigenous woman has been found at a Winnipeg landfill, in the latest grim episode of the country’s crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The body of Linda Mary Beardy, a 33-year-old mother from Lake St Martin First Nation, was spotted on Monday by staff at the Brady landfill.

Cambria Harris, activist and daughter of Morgan Harris, 39, who was murdered by Jeremy Skibicki.
Cambria Harris, activist and daughter of Morgan Harris, 39, who was allegedly murdered by Jeremy Skibicki. Photograph: Jessica Lee/The Guardian

The find has shocked a city increasingly accustomed to the bodies of Indigenous women being dumped in landfills, but police do not believe it is linked to an alleged serial killer who targeted Indigenous women and was arrested last year.

“I can confirm at this time we have no information to suggest that there are any other victims or that this investigation is related to any previous incidents,” Inspector Shawn Pike of the Winnipeg police told reporters, adding that detectives believe Beardy’s remains were discovered only hours after they were deposited by a garbage truck. Investigators have called the death suspicious, but have not yet classified it a homicide.

“We as a society can never grow numb to this,” said Winnipeg’s mayor, Scott Gillingham. “This always needs to spark within us outrage, concern, grief … We need to value Indigenous women.”

In December, the city was shaken by allegations that Marcedes Myran, Morgan Harris, Rebecca Contois and a fourth woman – later given the name Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or Buffalo Woman – had been murdered by an alleged serial killer. Winnipeg police charged Jeremy Skibicki in connection with their deaths.

Adding to the horror, police initially said that they did not have the resources to recover Harris’s body, which is believed to have been buried in another Winnipeg landfill. In the face of public outrage, the federal government gave $C500,000 (US$370,000) in February for a feasibility study into a possible search. The results of study are expected to be released in the next four to six weeks.

Harris’s daughter Cambria told the Guardian she was “heartbroken and angered” by the news of the latest grim discovery.

“It’s scary that this is not the first time, or the second time, that Indigenous women’s remains have been taken advantage of and dumped within this landfill,” she said.

In June 2022, police found the remains of Rebecca Contois at the Brady landfill, but not before 100 truckloads of garbage had been dumped at the site. A decade earlier, police spent a week in an unsuccessful search of the Brady landfill for the remains of Tanya Nepinak, believed to have been a victim of another serial killer, Shawn Lamb.

Harris and others say they believe more women could remain buried beneath the trash at one of the landfills, including Buffalo Woman, whose body has also never been found.

Beardy’s death has once again demonstrated the persistent and extreme dangers Indigenous women face in North America.

In recent decades, at least 4,000 Indigenous women and girls have been murdered – or simply vanished, a reality described in a landmark 2019 report as a “genocide”. And against a backdrop of systemic inequity and injustice, vulnerable Indigenous women continue to be victims of neglectful policies and state indifference.

“We have to be prioritizing the protections of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited. And we’re not,” Nahanni Fontaine, a provincial lawmaker in Manitoba, told reporters. “We were here only a couple of months ago. And here we are again. It keeps happening over and over and over … this absolute disregard for Indigenous women’s lives.

Marc Miller, the Crown-Indigenous relations minister, said in a statement the discovery was “horrific and devastating” and “represents a fear that Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQI+ people live with on a daily basis”.

Harris says the events have traumatized her family, as well as the family of Tanya Nepinak, neither of which received closure by recovering their loved ones.

“Winnipeg has the most missing and murdered women and it’s shocking to see the repercussions of the previous, publicly announced decisions not to search these landfills,” she said. “It incentivizes people to take advantage of vulnerable women and they think they can get away with it by dumping the bodies in landfills they know won’t get searched.”