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Red dresses hang on fences surrounding Winnipeg’s Brady Road Landfill on Jan. 14.SHANNON VANRAES/Reuters

Ottawa has yet to decide whether it will commit to searching a Winnipeg-area landfill for the remains of two First Nations women believed to be victims of a serial killer, more than a month after a feasibility study concluded such a search would be possible but costly.

“We’re continuing to review the report and co-ordinate with the Manitoba government,” Crown Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said in an interview this week.

“The Prime Minister has said quite clearly and publicly that he will be there for the families,” Mr. Miller said, adding that a search “is something that could take years, and is not without a real threat to human life for the people that will actually be searching the dump site.”

The government has faced calls to fund a search of the landfill, known as Prairie Green, since December. That is when police revealed that the remains of two Long Plain First Nation women are believed to be buried there.

Police have alleged that the women, Morgan Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 24, were both murdered by accused serial killer Jeremy Skibicki.

Mr. Skibicki, 35, was first charged in May, 2022, in the death of another First Nations woman, 26-year-old Rebecca Contois. Her remains were found in a garbage bin outside a Winnipeg apartment building and then at a local landfill known as Brady Road.

In December, Mr. Skibicki was also charged with the murders of Ms. Harris, Ms. Myran and a fourth woman, who is also believed to be Indigenous. She has not yet been identified, but the local community has named her Buffalo Woman. Police have said all four women were killed in a three-month period in the spring of 2022.

When police announced the December charges, they revealed that they had concluded six months earlier that Ms. Harris and Ms. Myran were likely buried at the Prairie Green landfill. But they said an effort to recover the women’s bodies had been deemed too difficult and dangerous to undertake.

The revelation that investigators had left the women’s remains in the landfill for months, even as their families continued to search for them, led to outrage. In response to pressure from the families and their communities, the landfill paused operations, and a working group was assembled to study the feasibility of searching for the bodies.

The study, led by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, finished in late April. The group concluded in its 55-page report that a search of the landfill was feasible, but not without “considerable risks” because of toxic chemicals and asbestos at the site.

Ultimately, they concluded, such a search could take between 12 and 36 months and cost between $84-million and $184-million, depending on the time frame.

But AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick cautioned against putting a price tag on the lives of Indigenous women. She told a news conference at the time that, if the government does not support a search, this would “demonstrate to all First Nations across Canada that this government condones the despairing act of disposing of First Nations women in landfills.”

On Friday, Mr. Miller said the victims’ families will be the first to hear when the government makes a decision.

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson told reporters Thursday that she had not read the feasibility study report, but that a decision is in the federal government’s hands. She did not commit to providing provincial money to help fund the search of the landfill but said her government supports the families.

Ms. Harris’s family is planning a rally outside the Manitoba Legislative Building on June 14. They said in a Facebook post the event is intended “to bring attention to the lack of response and support from the Provincial Government for the calls to search the landfill.”

They added that while Mr. Miller has met with the families, the province has yet to do so.

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