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Three years after the release of the final report of the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), it is disgusting that we still have to shame authorities to search a landfill site where they believe the bodies of at least two Indigenous women are buried.

But Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth told reporters that he thinks those bodies are located somewhere in a city landfill – and that it would not be “feasible” to search for them.

There is no feasible explanation for this. Mr. Smyth’s refusal to even try is unforgivable.

These women have names, families and communities: They are Morgan Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26. Jeremy Skibicki faces first-degree murder charges in their deaths, as well as the deaths of Rebecca Contois, an O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation sister whose partial remains had previously been found in a garbage bin, and of a fourth woman whom Elders have called Buffalo Woman, a spirit name to give her the dignity she deserves in the absence of a known identity.

Winnipeg Centre MP Leah Gazan had to stand up in Parliament on Monday to ask the federal government to intervene. “While the government stalls at providing resources, Indigenous women and girls and two-spirit [people] continue to be murdered because we are a target, Mr. Speaker. Will the government provide immediate funding to stop this genocide, and the resources to search for the remains of our precious sisters?”

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller called it “very puzzling” that the landfill will not be searched, and he acknowledged the government has not done enough. But it has not responded to MPs’ requests for urgent resources.

The children of the victims are angry and appealing for simple decency. “I should not have to stand here today,” said Cambria Harris, Morgan Harris’s daughter, on Parliament Hill. “And I should not have to come here and be so mad, and beg and beg, so that you will find and bring our loved ones home.”

After the MMIWG national inquiry released its 231 Calls for Justice, many Canadians balked at the finding that the various abuses empowered or condoned by the Canadian state constituted a genocide of Indigenous people that especially targets women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people. But it is clear that this word was truthfully used by Justice Marion Buller and her fellow commissioners.

And yes, the genocide continues. “The federal government, at least, seems to be unwilling to make the systemic changes we called for,” Justice Buller told me in an interview on Monday. “Those systemic changes are the only way to end the genocide.”

There always seems to be an excuse for not acting on those 231 Calls. This apathy is appalling.

The MMIWG national inquiry found that “no one knows an exact number of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people in Canada.” A similar note can be found in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report about the number, names and whereabouts of children who died at Indian residential schools. Let that sink in: So many souls of women and little ones are just gone, forgotten, that we cannot count them.

Make no mistake: Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people were and continue to be targeted and seen as less worthy victims.

A number of advocates have called for the killings of the four women to be designated as hate crimes. Their alleged killer had reportedly posted antisemitic, misogynistic and white supremacist material online. Yet Winnipeg Police investigators remain uncertain of any potential motive.

Call for Justice 5.18 from the MMIWG inquiry asks the government to consider violence against Indigenous women an aggravating factor at sentencing, by amending the Criminal Code. Bill S-215, first brought forward by now-retired senator Lillian Dyck six years ago, sought to do so, to fully punish alleged offenders for targeting Indigenous women, but it was defeated in the House of Commons in 2019.

Colonial violence, racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia seem embedded in Canadian life. We see it in our health care system, and in the laws, policies and structures that built this country. We see it, too, in the disproportionate detention of Indigenous women in Canada’s jails.

But remember, for a moment, Tina Fontaine. The 15-year-old from Sagkeeng First Nation was found in the Red River in 2014, and her death seemed to horrify Canadians. It emerged that this vulnerable child, who was listed as a missing person, crossed paths with paramedics, child welfare services and police on the day she died – yet still, no one saved her. But after a three-week trial, Ms. Fontaine’s accused murderer, Raymond Cormier, was acquitted. Outrage helped fuel the forming of the MMIWG national inquiry.

Don’t let all that work and hope die. Now is the time to act.