WINNIPEG – The City of Winnipeg filed notice Tuesday that it will seek a court injunction to force an end to a landfill blockade in its sixth day.
In an application to the Court of King’s Bench, the city is seeking an order for the protesters to leave and an authorization to arrest and remove anyone who refuses to do so.
A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
“An ongoing blockade … poses serious risks of irreparable harm to the city, residents of, and businesses in Winnipeg, and the environment,” the notice of application read.
Dozens of protesters have blocked the main road to the city-owned Brady Road landfill to demand a search of a different landfill — the privately owned Prairie Green Landfill north of Winnipeg. It is there that the remains of two slain Indigenous women — Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran — are believed to have been dumped last year.
Jeremy Skibicki has been charged with first-degree murder in those deaths, as well as in the death of Rebecca Contois, whose remains were found last year at Brady Road, and an unidentified woman Indigenous leaders are calling Buffalo Woman, whose remains have not been found.
The blockade began last Thursday after Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said the province would not support a search of Prairie Green. She pointed to a study, funded by the federal government earlier this year, which said a search is feasible but would not be guaranteed to succeed.
The study also warned there are risks to searchers due to exposure to toxic chemicals and asbestos. The search could take up to three years and cost $184 million. But the report also said forgoing a search could be harmful for the women’s families.
A city official said earlier this week the blockade was preventing maintenance work from being done and the city was at risk of violating its environmental licence because it was unable to go in and conduct regular tasks that prevent toxic materials from leaching into the soil.
Mayor Scott Gillingham said Tuesday he hoped for dialogue with the protesters.
“We’re trying to do this respectfully through dialogue and reach an agreement with the protesters, but at the end of the day, my responsibility to the City of Winnipeg and the citizens of Winnipeg is to make sure that garbage continues to be collected and we can have access through that road.”
One of the protesters said Monday that demonstrations will continue, even if a court injunction forces those involved to move to another location.
A First Nations leader in Manitoba said the families of the victims are being denied closure as long as the landfill remains unsearched.
“It’s unfortunate the families are faced with a situation where there’s been no searching,” Garrison Settee, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, told reporters at a meeting of the Assembly of First Nations in Halifax Tuesday.
“I think it’s sad, and I think that more should have been done.“
— with files from Marlo Glass in Halifax
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 11, 2023.