Winnipeg mayor mum on assembly with police about alternative to not search landfill for stays

There was a meeting of the police board and chief on Thursday, but that’s about all Winnipeg’s mayor is willing to say.

Scott Gillingham took part in an impromptu police board meeting Thursday night with police Chief Danny Smyth and senior police inspectors about a decision not to search of a landfill for missing women believed to be victims of a serial killer.

Smyth said last week that he believes the remains of two women allegedly killed by Jeremy Skibicki are in a privately operated landfill north of the city, but that a search wouldn’t be feasible at this point.

That ignited calls by First Nations advocacy groups and family members for Smyth to resign.

“There was a meeting of the police board. I sit on the police board [but] I’m not the spokesperson for the board,” Gillingham told CBC Manitoba Information Radio host Marcy Markusa Friday morning about the previous night’s gathering.

Coun. Markus Chambers is chair of the board, “so he’d be the individual to talk to about anything related to the meeting,” Gillingham said.

When Markusa pressed for a general answer, rather than specifics, about whether the board received some answers about the police decision, Gillingham once again deferred to Chambers.

“I would really direct you to him.”

A Winnipeg man is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Morgan Beatrice Harris, left, Marcedes Myran and Rebecca Contois, right, as well as a fourth woman, who hasn’t been identified but is now known as Buffalo Woman. (Submitted by Winnipeg Police Service and Darryl Contois)

As for the calls for Smyth’s resignation, Gillingham said “I can absolutely appreciate the feeling in the community,” but that is not his focus right now.

Skibicki was charged last week with first-degree murder in the deaths of Marcedes Myran, Morgan Harris and a third woman, whom community members have named Buffalo Woman, because police do not know her identity.

Skibicki was initially charged in May with first-degree murder in the death of Rebecca Contois, 24, another First Nations woman living in Winnipeg. Her remains were found near Skibicki’s home and at the city’s Brady Road Landfill.

While police don’t yet know where Buffalo Woman’s remains are, they believe Harris’s and Myran’s are at Prairie Green, just north of Winnipeg’s Perimeter Highway.

WATCH | Prairie Green landfill, north of Winnipeg, seen from above:

From above: Prairie Green Landfill north of Winnipeg

Operations at a private landfill where police believe the remains of two women are located will be paused, Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson and Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham said Thursday afternoon at City Hall.

Gillingham and Premier Heather Stefanson announced earlier on Thursday that Prairie Green has paused its operations, with no new materials to be added to the site.

That halt will continue “until next steps can be determined,” Gillingham told Markusa on Friday.

“We don’t know what those next steps are right now. I haven’t, certainly, predetermined that.”

He wants more information about what a search would entail, while hearing from the families of the missing women and Indigenous leaders “will also be very important in the next steps of this process,” he said.

Gillingham intends to make some calls to the families and leaders on Friday.

As for when the next announcement or steps will be made, Gillingham said he could not say.

“I want to move in a way that is cautious to make sure that nothing that would be done next would jeopardize the case that is before the courts,” he said.

He expressed sorrow and condolences to the families “walking through this very, very difficult journey at this time” and to the Indigenous leaders supporting them.

“For all of Winnipeg, this has, and rightly so, gone to the core of our soul as a city,” Gillingham said.

“We just cannot accept this. We have to do more to protect Indigenous women and girls.”

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