21st September 2023

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

The City of Winnipeg will have to wait to learn whether a judge will grant its request for an injunction to order a group of protesters to stop blocking the main entrance to the Brady Road landfill following a hearing Wednesday. 

Justice Sheldon Lanchbery adjourned the matter until noon on Thursday in order to give protesters time to seek legal counsel, and for the city to give notice to the protesters about when the request for an injunction will be heard. 

In response to the judge’s order, the city published a press release just after 3 p.m. CT Wednesday with the time and location of the hearing. 

The blockade, which started six days ago, was set up in response to the Manitoba government’s decision not to fund a search of the Prairie Green landfill north of Winnipeg, where the remains of two Indigenous women are believed to be.

The City of Winnipeg filed an application Tuesday for a court injunction to end the blockade, arguing that there were concerns about environmental, safety and financial risks that will cause “irreparable harm” to the city if the court order is not granted.

WATCH | Supporters outline the reasons they’re blocking the Brady Road landfill:

Winnipeg landfill blockade erected ‘for all the right reasons,’ says supporter

Melissa Robinson and Long Plain First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson discuss the purpose behind a blockade outside Winnipeg’s Brady Road landfill. CBC News shot this drone footage of the blockade on Tuesday, July 12.

Robyn Johnston, who is not a lawyer but was in court Wednesday to support the protesters and the families of the women whose remains are believed to be at the landfill, said she was satisfied with the adjournment.

The group hadn’t had much time to review the court documents and get legal counsel, she said.

“We should have the ability to bring a lawyer to represent us, and I am happy the judge allowed that to happen.”

The group is trying to find a lawyer with the help of Long Plain First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson, she said.

A woman stands in front of the Winnipeg law court building holding an eagle feather
Robyn Johnston is not a lawyer, but was at court Wednesday to support the families of the First Nations women whose remains are believed to be at the Prairie Green landfill, north of Winnipeg. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey/CBC)

In the application, the city argues that protesters are disrupting operations at the Winnipeg dump to influence other levels of government “not related to any decision-making within the city’s authority.” 

Though there is a temporary back entrance to the Brady landfill, the city argues it’s not a long-term solution.

Rain on Friday left the alternative route unusable, and work is currently underway to reinforce it, court documents filed by the city say. 

An affidavit from Michael Gordichuk, the city’s manager of solid waste services, also says if the city is unable to operate the facility, there are significant environmental and health and safety risks, including the buildup of toxic gases and liquids.

If the blockade continues, the diversion of garbage to other landfills may be required, which would cost the city about $41,000 per day, Gordichuk’s affidavit says.

The application names several people, including Cambria Harris and Melissa Robinson, the daughter and cousin of 39-year-old Morgan Harris. Her remains are believed to be at the Prairie Green landfill just north of Winnipeg, as are the remains of 26-year-old Marcedes Myran.

No plans to end blockade

Though the blockade was only erected recently, a protest group has been at the landfill since December in what they call Camp Morgan. 

Joseph Munro, one of the leaders of the Camp Morgan protest, said Wednesday protesters have no plans of taking the blockade down until Premier Heather Stefanson reverses the decision on a landfill search.

“Having this [camp] here … sends a message to Heather Stefanson that she made an inappropriate response. I think she needs to go back to the bargaining table with these families and re-discuss these issues.”

He hopes the judge “understands the grave consequences that have happened here” and sides with the protesters, he said.

A man in a red shirt and sunglasses holding a feather and safe poses for a photo.
Joseph Munro is one of the leaders of the Camp Morgan protest group at the Brady Road landfill in south Winnipeg. He says they have no plans to take the blockade down at this point. (Anne-Louise Michel/CBC)

Speaking in Halifax Wednesday, federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said the Manitoba government’s decision not to search the Prairie Green landfill has impaired the federal government’s ability to help.

He also suggested the province has acted in a callous manner.

“This has been dealt with in a very heartless way, quite frankly, and we do absolutely have to try as a federal government,” Miller told the Manitoba caucus of the Assembly of First Nations at the organization’s annual general assembly. 

“The reaction that we’ve seen from our partner in Manitoba is one that makes any decision this summer logistically impossible.”

Support is available for anyone affected by details of these cases. If you require support, you can contact Ka Ni Kanichihk’s Medicine Bear Counselling, Support and Elder Services at 204-594-6500, ext. 102 or 104, (within Winnipeg) or 1-888-953-5264 (outside Winnipeg).

Support is also available via Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Liaison unit at 1-800-442-0488 or 204-677-1648.

Mental health counselling and crisis support are also available to Indigenous people across Canada 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Hope for Wellness hotline at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat.