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A giant red dress is being sought for Winnipeg’s city-run Brady landfill – more than 50 feet high, if possible. The hope is to place it on the hill, so it stands strong and tall over the daily refuse of the city – the used diapers, coffee cups, broken glass and needles – and marks the grave site that the dump has become.

It would stand as a monument to murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, reminding all who see it that the body of Linda Mary Beardy, 33, was found there in April. It would honour Rebecca Contois, 24, whose partial remains were found here in June, 2022. And who knows how many other Indigenous women – and men – are buried there. You don’t know what you are going to find until you look.

The red dress has become a protective force, a sign of love and light, over the inhumanity that continues to try, in vain, to break Indigenous people. Earlier this month, it was painted on the road to the Brady landfill after Indigenous people and their allies blocked the entrance to the dump to protest Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson’s refusal to search for bodies in another burial ground, about 40 kilometres north.

That’s where the remains of at least two murdered women, Morgan Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26, are believed to be – in the privately owned Prairie Green landfill site. Jeremy Skibicki has been charged in the deaths of those women, as well as the killing of Ms. Contois and an unidentified victim who has been given the name Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe or Buffalo Woman.

The Winnipeg Police have done landfill searches before. They spent nearly a week in the Brady landfill in October, 2012, looking for the body of Tanya Nepinak, who disappeared in September, 2011. That was a short, six-day search; they should have stayed longer. But it did prove that police can do it.

So why won’t Ms. Stefanson support a landfill search? A federally funded feasibility study was done by forensic experts that showed that a search is feasible. But the Premier has refused to fund the search by focusing on the acknowledged health and safety concerns, even though one of the authors has followed up by saying that “risks can be mitigated, and the search can be conducted safely.”

Leadership means making hard choices and doing the right thing. Toronto Police Service spent months searching one of the city’s main garbage sites for the body of Nathaniel Brettell – and they found him in August, 2021. If Toronto can do it, so can Winnipeg. And if it won’t, then Indigenous Peoples will.

“If people are afraid to search because there are dangers, maybe they shouldn’t search,” Joe Munro, one of the leaders of Camp Morgan, which was built near the Brady landfill barricade, told me Tuesday evening. “We are looking for people who love. We are looking for courageous people and those willing to lay down their lives for those they love.”

We have not yet heard a plausible explanation from Ms. Stefanson. It’s hard to imagine this would be her approach if it was the daughter of someone she knew. It’s time for another meeting, so that all levels of government, the families and Indigenous leadership can figure it out.

With the road cleared, trucks started rolling over the giant red dress that had been painted on the road. Elder Geraldine Shingoose, affectionately known as Gramma Shingoose, was a witness. She told me that she held ceremony, hugging the women who swept the road after police tore down the blockade.

“I gave each of them hugs, and I thanked them for holding the line for all of these days. They just let it out. They were crying,” says Ms. Shingoose, a survivor of the Muscowequan Residential School.

“My purpose was to smudge, do the sacred medicines but also lift my pipe with two of the women. I sang the ‘Sabe’ song because ‘Sabe’ brings out the honesty in everybody; I’m praying honesty comes out of our province, out of Premier Heather Stefanson,” Ms. Shingoose said, referring to one of the Seven Grandfather teachings.

Mr. Munro does not feel defeated. Instead, he says his heart bursts with pride that rallies were held in Vancouver and on Parliament Hill. Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo tweeted about the situation. Two hundred donated red dresses are arriving on Thursday, to line the road to the Brady landfill. The world is now watching.

And a new camp, named after Ms. Myran, is being built at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. “The Indigenous community has been so wronged. A lot of people have been stepping on us, wiping their boots on us,” Mr. Munro said, noting that the police and justice system had failed 15-year-old Tina Fontaine.

“For the record – we are not giving up. We are staying to fight until the landfill is searched. We want them out of there.”

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