’We are not trash’: Horrors suffered by Canada’s Indigenous women

Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, chair of the National Family and Survivors Circle, poses at the entrance of the Prairie Green landfill, where the bodies of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran are believed to be buried, in Stony Mountain, Manitoba, Canada, on April 28, 2024. (AFP)
Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, chair of the National Family and Survivors Circle, poses at the entrance of the Prairie Green landfill, where the bodies of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran are believed to be buried, in Stony Mountain, Manitoba, Canada, on April 28, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 24 June 2024
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’We are not trash’: Horrors suffered by Canada’s Indigenous women

’We are not trash’: Horrors suffered by Canada’s Indigenous women
  • Indigenous women are wildly overrepresented among the victims of femicide in Canada

PRINCE RUPERT, Canada: A mountain of windswept garbage. Beneath it, bodies. For years, the remains discarded by a serial killer have languished in a landfill — the latest chapter in a long history of violence against Canada’s Indigenous women.
Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran were raped, killed, dismembered and thrown out with the trash in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Police believe their remains are buried deep inside the Prairie Green landfill.
The partial remains of another victim, Rebecca Contois, were found in two places — a garbage bin in the city and in a separate landfill. The body of a fourth, unidentified woman in her 20s — dubbed Buffalo Woman — is still missing.




Red ribbons symbolizing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women are tied to a fence at the Prairie Green landfill, in Stony Mountain, Manitoba, Canada, on April 29, 2024. (AFP)

Their murderer, Jeremy Skibicki, now 37 and linked to white supremacists, confessed in 2022 and has been tried. A verdict is expected next month.
But their relatives have been unable to lay them to rest, as the excavations to find their remains have not yet begun.
Indigenous women are disproportionately targeted by violence in Canada, and often poorly protected by authorities accused of paying little attention to their plight.
Instead, they are thrown “into the trash,” says Elle Harris, the 19-year-old daughter of Morgan Harris.




Aerial view of the Prairie Green landfill, where bodies of murdered women are reportedly buried, in Stony Mountain, Manitoba, Canada, on April 28, 2024. A mountain of windswept garbage. (AFP)

A member of the Long Plain nation, Elle is dressed in a traditional skirt, her hair twisted into a long braid.
She says her mother had a difficult life, spending years homeless after losing custody of her five children due to a drug addiction.
“My mom was taken just like that, just like nothing. And I wish I could see her one more time, to talk to her again,” she tells AFP.
Instead, she and her family are keeping vigil near the Prairie Green landfill, where they have set up teepees, a sacred fire, red dresses and a banner demanding empathy: “What if it was your daughter?“
For months — through the wind-blasted Winnipeg winter — they have taken turns staying in the makeshift camp, seeking, says Elle, “to prove that we are something, we are not trash, we can’t just be thrown into the garbage.”
It has also formed part of their campaign to pressure authorities to excavate the site, which has remained in use since Skibicki’s confession, with new truckloads of debris regularly arriving to be piled on top of what is already there.
The go-ahead for the digging was finally given at the end of 2023, shortly after Winnipeg elected Canada’s first Indigenous provincial leader, Wab Kinew.
But the searchers must sift through tons of garbage and construction rubble, and such an operation involves considerable risks due to the presence of toxic materials such as asbestos, according to independent experts.
Ultimately, it could take years and cost tens of millions of dollars.
Morgan Harris’ family has vowed to maintain their vigil until her remains are recovered.

Skibicki targeted Indigenous women he met in homeless shelters, prosecutors told his trial, which began in late April. A judge is expected to issue a verdict on July 11.
At the time of his arrest, the then-Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller said the case was part of “a legacy of a devastating history” of Canada’s treatment of Indigenous women “that has reverberations today.”
“No one can stand in front of you with confidence to say that this won’t happen again and I think that’s kind of shameful,” he said.
Indigenous women are wildly overrepresented among the victims of femicide in Canada.
They represent about one-fifth of all the women killed in gender-related homicides in the country — even though they are just five percent of the female population, according to official figures documenting an 11-year period up to 2021.
In that year in particular, the rate of gender-related homicide of Indigenous victims was more than triple that of such killings of girls and women overall, the report said.
“Canada is looked at as a country that upholds rights,” said Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, an activist who has championed Indigenous women for years.
But when “we’re being disposed of like garbage in landfills, that clearly says something is very wrong in this country.”
In 2019, a national commission went so far as to describe the thousands of murders and disappearances of First Nations women over the years as a “genocide.”
Isolated, marginalized, and heavily impacted by intergenerational trauma, they face disproportionate violence due to “state actions and inactions rooted in colonialism and colonial ideologies, built on the presumption of superiority,” the commission concluded.
It is a conclusion shared by some of the families of Skibicki’s victims.
The young children of Marcedes Myran do not understand why she is in a landfill, admits their great-grandmother Donna Bartlett, who is raising them in her small, cluttered house in an outlying neighborhood of Winnipeg.
Marcedes was a kind, happy girl who loved to play jokes, the 66-year-old recalls.
She laments authorities’ reluctance to search the landfill.
“If (the women) were white, they would have done it right away,” she says.

Further west, in British Columbia, is a stretch of road hundreds of miles long known as the “Highway of Tears” — a stark monument, activists say, to the many ways Canada has failed Indigenous women.
Here, nature is spectacular — the snow-capped mountains, the immense trees, the meandering Skeena River, waterfalls and abundant wildlife such as foxes, bears and eagles.
But on the side of the highway is an incongruous sight: red dresses nailed to posts symbolizing vanished women, faded photos of young girls with dazzling smiles, messages promising rewards for any clues to where they have gone.
Since the 1960s, as many as 50 women — and a few men — have vanished along this 450-mile (725-kilometer) highway linking Prince Rupert, on the Pacific Coast near Alaska, to Prince George.
All are believed to have been young and Indigenous. Many vanished while hitchhiking or walking home along Highway 16. No community in the region was spared.
Tamara Chipman, who was a member of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, was heading to Prince Rupert to see friends when she was last seen hitchhiking on September 21, 2005. She was 22, the mother of a little boy.
Her aunt, Gladys Radek, described a feisty young woman who “loved fast boats and fishing and also life,” in a region marked by social disintegration and drugs.
In these isolated and impoverished communities, connected only by this single highway flanked by deep forests, without proper telephone networks or public transportation, many young people are forced to hitchhike to get around.
They often encounter temporary workers who have come for jobs at local mines: mainly well-paid, single men.
The case of Chipman, like the majority of disappearances on the route, has never been explained.

When Lana Derrick went missing in the area 25 years ago, “we had some challenges in the beginning getting support from the RCMP to take the case seriously,” says her cousin Wanda Good, referring to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
It is an observation made by many of the families — that efforts to find women stigmatized as drug addicts, prostitutes or alcoholics can be middling at best.
In several cases the families say they have organized the first searches themselves — both for their missing loved ones, and for any witnesses.
The head of the RCMP admitted to the national commission in 2018 that, for too many Indigenous families, “the RCMP was not the police service that it needed to be during this terrible time of your life.”
Studies show a deep-rooted distrust between police and Indigenous people. It dates back to decades when police were used as the armed wing of Canadian governments, as they imposed a policy of forced assimilation on the country’s First Peoples.
At the RCMP’s British Columbia headquarters on the outskirts of Vancouver, Constable Wayne Clary, a veteran homicide investigator, tries to explain the tragedy of the Highway of Tears.
“The northern areas are very, very isolated. Some of the activities that these women engage in, and not just Indigenous, but other women, they make themselves available for men who prey on women,” he says.
He rejects accusations of botched investigations, but acknowledges: “In the past, communication may not have been there.”

Clary is part of the E-Pana unit, created in 2005 — more than 30 years after the disappearances began — to “determine if a serial killer, or killers, is responsible.”
Eighteen women are on the unit’s list — 13 homicides and five disappearances spanning from 1969 to 2006. No connection has been established between the cases so far.
The investigations remain open, but new homicides are not handled by the special unit. The last — that of Chelsey Quaw, a 29-year-old Indigenous woman reported missing after leaving home from Saik’uz First Nation — dates back to last November.
In recent years, there has been progress, notes Good: the police listen more to families, and new relay antennas have been installed for mobile communications on the road.
“We are moving forward, but at a very, very slow, snail’s pace,” she says.
But it is a collective tragedy which the country refuses to confront, believes Radek, 69.
Speaking slowly and gravely, her voice at times rising in anger, she describes how she began traveling the country “to tell the stories of all these women with broken destinies, to be the voice of these families, because they were silenced.”
Her dilapidated van is covered with photos of the missing. When she passes through local villages along the Highway of Tears, residents often stop her to talk.
Her fight now takes her outside of Canada to conferences and demonstrations seeking to raise awareness of the women’s plight.
“I’ll never stop looking,” she says.
 

 


NASA telescope spots a super Jupiter that takes more than a century to go around its star

NASA telescope spots a super Jupiter that takes more than a century to go around its star
Updated 25 July 2024
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NASA telescope spots a super Jupiter that takes more than a century to go around its star

NASA telescope spots a super Jupiter that takes more than a century to go around its star
  • The planet is roughly the same diameter as Jupiter, but with six times the mass
  • One big difference: It takes this planet more than a century, possibly as long as 250 years, to go around its star

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: A super Jupiter has been spotted around a neighboring star by the Webb Space Telescope — and it has a super orbit.
The planet is roughly the same diameter as Jupiter, but with six times the mass. Its atmosphere is also rich in hydrogen like Jupiter’s.
One big difference: It takes this planet more than a century, possibly as long as 250 years, to go around its star. It’s 15 times the distance from its star than Earth is to the sun.
Scientists had long suspected a big planet circled this star 12 light-years away, but not this massive or far from its star. A light-year is 5.8 trillion miles. These new observations show the planet orbits the star Epsilon Indi A, part of a three-star system.
An international team led by Max Planck Institute for Astronomy’s Elisabeth Matthews in Germany collected the images last year and published the findings Wednesday in the journal Nature.
Astronomers directly observed the incredibly old and cold gas giant — a rare and tricky feat — by masking the star through use of a special shading device on Webb. By blocking the starlight, the planet stood out as a pinpoint of infrared light.
The planet and star clock in at 3.5 billion years old, 1 billion years younger than our own solar system, but still considered old and brighter than expected, according to Matthews.
The star is so close and bright to our own solar system that it’s visible with the naked eye in the Southern Hemisphere.
Don’t bet on life, though.
“This is a gas giant with no hard surface or liquid water oceans,” Matthews said in an email.
It’s unlikely this solar system sports more gas giants, she said, but small rocky worlds could be lurking there.
Worlds similar to Jupiter can help scientists understand “how these planets evolve over giga-year timescales,” she said.
The first planets outside our solar system — dubbed exoplanets — were confirmed in the early 1990s. NASA’s tally now stands at 5,690 as of mid-July. The vast majority were detected via the transit method, in which a fleeting dip in starlight, repeated at regular intervals, indicates an orbiting planet.
Telescopes in space and also on the ground are on the hunt for even more, especially planets that might be similar to Earth.
Launched in 2021, NASA and the European Space Agency’s Webb telescope is the biggest and most powerful astronomical observatory ever placed in space.
 


Cyprus displays once-looted antiquities dating back thousands of years

Cyprus displays once-looted antiquities dating back thousands of years
Updated 22 July 2024
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Cyprus displays once-looted antiquities dating back thousands of years

Cyprus displays once-looted antiquities dating back thousands of years
  • The returned artifacts numbering around 60 were part of a larger haul of 250 antiquities that German authorities had seized from Turkish art dealer Aydin Dikmen in 1997

NICOSIA: Cyprus on Monday put on display artifacts — some of them thousands of years old — that were returned after a Turkish art dealer looted them from the ethnically divided island nation decades ago.
Aydin Dikmen took the artifacts from the country’s breakaway north in the years after Cyprus’ split in 1974, when Turkiye invaded following a coup mounted by supporters of union with Greece. The antiquities were kept in Germany after authorities there seized them in 1997, and protracted legal battles secured their repatriation in three batches, the last one this year.
Addressing the unveiling ceremony at Cyprus’ archaeological museum, President Nikos Christodoulides said the destruction of a country’s cultural heritage as evidenced in recent conflicts becomes a “deliberate campaign of cultural and religious cleansing that aims to eliminate identity.”
Among the 60 most recently returned artifacts put on display include jewelry from the Chalcolithic Period between 3500-1500 B.C. and Bronze Age bird-shaped idols.
Antiquities that Dikmen also looted but were returned years ago include 1,500-year-old mosaics of Saints Luke, Mark, Matthew and James. They are among the few examples of early Christian works to survive the Iconoclastic period in the 8th and 9th centuries when most such works were destroyed.
Cyprus’ authorities and the country’s Orthodox Church for decades have been hunting for the island’s looted antiquities and centuries-old relics from as many as 500 churches in open auctions and on the black market.
The museum’s antiquities curator, Eftychia Zachariou, told the ceremony that Cyprus in recent years has benefited from a shift in thinking among authorities in many countries who now opt to repatriate antiquities of dubious provenance.


Baby flamingos saved from drought-decimated lake in Algeria

Baby flamingos saved from drought-decimated lake in Algeria
Updated 22 July 2024
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Baby flamingos saved from drought-decimated lake in Algeria

Baby flamingos saved from drought-decimated lake in Algeria

OUM EL BOUAGHI: Around 300 pink flamingo chicks were rescued by volunteers in eastern Algeria after the salt lake where they hatched dried up following years of high temperatures and drought.
Thousands of flamingos migrate each year to nest in Lake Tinsilt, located around 450 kilometers (about 280 miles) southeast of the capital Algiers.
It is one of the largest wetlands in the country, with an area of more than 20 square kilometers.
“Barely a month ago there was water here,” volunteer Mourad Ajroud told AFP on Friday, pointing to what is now a vast expanse of cracked earth littered with the carcasses of dead birds.
The disappearance of the lake, which locals and Algerian media attribute to high temperatures and a years-long drought, has driven the adult flamingos away.
They left behind their unhatched eggs and defenseless chicks, dozens of which have died from hunger, thirst, poaching and wolf attacks.
A group of volunteers provided their cars and trucks to transfer 283 pink flamingos about 50 kilometers away to Lake Mahidiya, about 50 kilometers away.
The wetland near Ain Mlila remains flush thanks to a steady flow of water from nearby rivers and lakes.
The rescue operation was initiated by local amateur photographer Tarek Kawajlia, who documents the wildlife in his area, and noticed the decrease in the size of the lake and the flight of birds.
The volunteers carry out “morning and evening patrols to follow the chicks until they recover and are able to fly, so that they can return next year to the sabkha (marsh) and life can resume its normal course,” Kawajlia told AFP.
Ajroud, 53, said the group was not able to save all the birds.
“We couldn’t transport them all,” he said sadly, as another volunteer takes an injured bird to a veterinary clinic.
A few hours after the chicks were released at their new habitat, some adult birds joined them.
“The operation was successful and the parents found their little ones in a magnificent scene,” Kawajlia said in a comment on one of his photos posted to Facebook.
Lake Tinsilt is one of the around 50 bodies of water in Algeria declared wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar international environment treaty to protect wetlands.
Last year, about a hundred pink flamingos died at Lake Telamine in western Algeria’s Oran province due to wastewater pollution, according to environmental activists.


Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake

Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake
Updated 22 July 2024
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Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake

Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake
  • Ile Sartuzi said the idea came to him when he saw a museum volunteer handing visitors coins to handle

LONDON: A Brazilian conceptual artist swapped a historic British coin for a fake in the British Museum to highlight the large number of foreign objects it holds.
Ile Sartuzi said the idea came to him when he saw a museum volunteer handing visitors coins to handle.
He asked for an English Civil War-era silver coin because “It is one of the few British things in the British Museum” and then created a diversion while he swapped it for the fake.
Sartuzi told Reuters he deposited the original coin in the museum’s collection box on the way out. The Art Newspaper first reported his act, which he recounted in a video made for his master’s degree at Goldsmiths, University of London.
The British Museum said it would inform police about the incident, which took place in June.
“This is a disappointing and derivative act that abuses a volunteer led service aimed at giving visitors the opportunity to handle real items and engage with history,” a museum spokesperson said when asked for comment.
Sartuzi said institutions such as the British museum and France’s Louvre view themselves as the “holders of the treasures of humanity. The problem is that these institutions are the basis of imperialist cultures that looted a lot of these objects from the global south and world.”
The British Museum has been under scrutiny over the way it acquired some of the artefacts it holds, with some countries asking for pieces to be returned. Examples include the Parthenon Sculptures and Nigeria’s bronzes looted by British troops in 1897. It did not respond to Sartuzi’s allegations.
Sartuzi, who has exhibited in Brazil, Portugal and London, said he had sought advice from an art lawyer before swapping the coin.
The Museum dismissed an employee a year ago and ordered a review of security after it discovered hundreds of items had been stolen from its collection or were missing.


A 12-year-old girl is accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin over an iPhone

iPhones are displayed during an event in Cupertino, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP)
iPhones are displayed during an event in Cupertino, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP)
Updated 21 July 2024
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A 12-year-old girl is accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin over an iPhone

iPhones are displayed during an event in Cupertino, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP)
  • The recording shows the older child using bedding to suffocate her cousin as the younger girl slept in the top bunk, Gibson District Attorney Frederick Agee’s statement said

HUMBOLDT, Tennessee: A 12-year-old girl in Tennessee has been charged with murder, accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin as the younger girl slept. A relative said they had been arguing over an iPhone.
A security camera recorded the killing, inside the bedroom they shared on July 15 in Humboldt, Tennessee, the county prosecutor said.
The recording shows the older child using bedding to suffocate her cousin as the younger girl slept in the top bunk, Gibson District Attorney Frederick Agee’s statement said. After the child died, “the juvenile cleaned up the victim and repositioned her body,” Agee said.
A relative told WREG-TV in Memphis that the girls had been arguing over an iPhone after coming from out of town to stay with their grandmother.
The girl was charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence after authorities obtained the video on Wednesday.
“I consider this to be one of the most disturbing violent acts committed by either an adult or juvenile that my office has prosecuted,” Agee wrote in the statement.
He said he would petition a judge to prosecute the girl, who turns 13 later this month, in adult court, which would allow for “a lengthier sentence, whether that will be through incarceration or supervision with court-ordered conditions.”