By Shari Narine
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The body of another First Nation woman has been found in a landfill site in Winnipeg.
Staff at the south Winnipeg Brady Road landfill discovered the remains of Linda Mary Beardy, a 33-year-old woman, on April 3.
Beardy is originally from Lake St. Martin First Nation.
It’s a tragedy that reflects too often what happens to First Nations children who were taken away from their families and communities through the discriminatory practises of the federal government, says Ashley Dawn Bach, a woman who was taken as a newborn from her First Nations mother.
“Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and two-spirt people and youth suicide, and many of the other issues that our communities are facing right now, are linked to our experiences of genocide and discrimination, including through the child welfare systems and through the discriminatory denial and delay of services that should have been provided under Jordan’s Principle,” said Bach, a representative plaintiff for the class action that has led to a historic $43 billion settlement.
Bach was speaking at a press conference in Ottawa this morning to address the revised final settlement agreement that includes $23.3 billion compensation for the approximately 300,000 First Nations children and caregivers who Canada discriminated against in its approaches to First Nations child and family services and Jordan’s Principle.
The agreement includes an additional $20 billion over five years for long-term reform of the system.
However, the grim finding in Winnipeg tempered what should have been an occasion for marking the important progress between First Nations and the federal government.
“It’s no coincidence that Indigenous people face higher rates of violence, and Indigenous women and girls face higher rates of violence, and that’s connected to what we’re here to talk about today,” said Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu.
“Compensation for a discriminatory system that meant that children didn’t get a fair chance, didn’t get a fair start. They were in many cases ripped away from families?and connection and that can never be restored.”
Hajdu said the first work she did as an elected official was to help launch the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. She travelled across the country and sat with families and heard their stories of “horror and shock.”
“It’s just a continuation of the reality of living in a colonial and patriarchal culture where?(the) ways we perceive Indigenous lives and bodies mean that we continue as a country to undermine their value and that has to stop,” said Hajdu.
The remains of Rebecca Contois, a member of O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation, were found in the same landfill last year.
A feasibility study is presently being conducted on a second landfill site, Prairie Green north of Winnipeg, to determine whether a search should be undertaken for the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran, both women from Long Plains First Nation.
Jeremy Skibicki has been charged in the deaths of Contois, Harris and Myran. All three women had been living in Winnipeg, as had Beardy.
The federal government committed $500,000 to that feasibility study in February.
Last December pressure was brought to bear by the Assembly of First Nations, which stood with Harris’ daughters Cambria and Kera, and Long Plains First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson. They demanded that action be taken as the Winnipeg police were unwilling to search the landfill site.
Speaking today at the press conference, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said they were expecting to get the results of the feasibility study in the next few weeks. He said he couldn’t speak to what those recommendations would be.
Miller added that he had spoken to Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham the previous day and the discovery at the Brody Road landfill reflected “some heightened vigilance” by the workers.
“It is an ongoing investigation. I do have faith in the Winnipeg police in what they are doing,” said Miller.
Police say Beardy’s death is considered suspicious but have not ruled it a homicide. They also say they have no reason to connect her death to any other case.
Manitoba Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse, who led the negotiations for the child and family services settlement on behalf of the AFN, expressed her grief at “all women and First Nations women across this country who continue to experience levels of violence and early deaths.”
Shari Narine is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with Windspeaker.com. The LJI program is federally funded.