’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

’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.


Trump website features image of his bloody face to raise funds

Trump website features image of his bloody face to raise funds
Updated 15 July 2024

Trump website features image of his bloody face to raise funds

Trump website features image of his bloody face to raise funds

WASHINGTON: Former US President Donald Trump’s website featured an image of him with a bloodied face on Monday morning to urge supporters to donate to his campaign and come together in the spirit of unity and peace following this weekend’s shooting.
The website redirected prospective donors to a page on fundraising platform WinRed that shows a black and white image taken by an Associated Press photographer that Trump has described as “iconic.”
It shows the Republican candidate’s face streaked with blood and his fist raised in defiance after a bullet pierced his upper right ear at a rally in Pennsylvania. The image was captioned with the words “FEAR NOT” written in upper case letters.
A message below the image read: “Unity. Peace. Make America Great Again.” The page also carried Trump’s signature and gave visitors to the website options to contribute at different levels.
In an interview published late on Sunday by the New York Post, Trump spoke about the images taken of him immediately after he was shot, including the photo featured on his campaign website.
“A lot of people say it’s the most iconic photo they’ve ever seen,” Trump was quoted as saying in the New York Post. “They’re right and I didn’t die. Usually you have to die to have an iconic picture.”
Trump, who is running against Democratic US President Joe Biden in November’s election, was shot by a 20-year-old man with a semiautomatic rifle on Saturday at the rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, authorities said.
One Trump supporter who attended the rally was killed, two others were wounded and the suspect was shot dead by security agents. The FBI said it was investigating the shooting as an assassination attempt.
Leaders of both the Republican and Democratic parties, including Trump and Biden, appealed to the bitterly divided country to unite and maintain calm after the shooting.
A GoFundMe campaign backed by Trump for the victims of the shooting at the former president’s rally had raised over $3.5 million by the end of Sunday.

Wedding party resumes for son of Asia’s richest man

Wedding party resumes for son of Asia’s richest man
Updated 13 July 2024

Wedding party resumes for son of Asia’s richest man

Wedding party resumes for son of Asia’s richest man
  • It follows a formal ceremony and party the previous evening attended by the likes of socialite Kim Kardashian, Tony Blair and John Cena

MUMBAI: Lavish wedding celebrations for the son of Asia’s richest man resumed Saturday with a star-studded guestlist including Hollywood celebrities, global business leaders and two former British prime ministers.
Billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani’s youngest son Anant and fiancee Radhika Merchant, both 29, are tying the knot over the weekend in the financial capital Mumbai following months of pre-marriage parties that have set a new benchmark in matrimonial extravagance.
Saturday will see a blessing ceremony during which the world’s rich and famous will greet and pay their respects to the couple at the wedding venue, a 16,000-capacity convention center owned by the Ambani family’s conglomerate.
It follows a formal ceremony and party the previous evening attended by the likes of socialite Kim Kardashian, actor John Cena and former British leaders Tony Blair and Boris Johnson.
Kardashian shared videos on Instagram showing the professional influencer and her sister Khloe preparing for Friday night’s festivities adorned in traditional Indian dresses and ornate jewelry.
Footage shared by the hosts showed hundreds of revellers dancing enthusiastically inside the venue wearing traditional Indian dress.
FIFA boss Gianni Infantino, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan and Samsung chairman Jay Y. Lee were among the hundreds of other famous figures from the business, sporting and entertainment worlds to make an appearance.
“Great wedding!” China’s ambassador to India Xu Feihong wrote on social media platform X along with footage of the couple from inside the venue.
“Best wishes to the new couple and double happiness!“
This weekend’s celebrations end Sunday with a reception party and cap months of extravagant pre-wedding parties.
Earlier events this year included a party at the Ambanis’ ancestral home where a purpose-built Hindu temple was unveiled, and private performances by R&B star Rihanna and Canada’s Justin Bieber.
Guests at that gala included Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and former US president Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, along with a who’s who of India’s sporting and entertainment worlds.
In June, the couple embarked on a four-day Mediterranean cruise along with 1,200 guests, with singer Katy Perry performing at a masquerade ball at a French chateau in Cannes.
The Backstreet Boys, US rapper Pitbull and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli also provided entertainment.
Anant’s father Mukesh is chairman of Reliance Industries, a family-founded conglomerate that has grown into India’s biggest company by market cap.
The patriarch is the world’s 11th richest person with a fortune of more than $123 billion, according to Forbes, and is no stranger to making a statement when it comes to family marriages.
He held the most expensive wedding in India to date for his daughter in 2018, which reportedly cost $100 million and saw US singer Beyonce perform.
The family’s lucrative interests include retail partnerships with Armani and other luxury brands, more than 40 percent of India’s mobile phone market and an Indian Premier League cricket team.
His 27-floor family home Antilia is one of Mumbai’s most prominent landmarks, reportedly costing more than $1 billion to build and with a permanent staff of 600 servants.
Merchant is the daughter of well-known pharmaceutical moguls.

Alec Baldwin weeps in court as judge announces involuntary manslaughter case is dismissed midtrial

Alec Baldwin weeps in court as judge announces involuntary manslaughter case is dismissed midtrial
Updated 13 July 2024

Alec Baldwin weeps in court as judge announces involuntary manslaughter case is dismissed midtrial

Alec Baldwin weeps in court as judge announces involuntary manslaughter case is dismissed midtrial

SANTA FE, N.M.: A New Mexico judge on Friday brought a sudden and stunning end to the involuntary manslaughter case against Alec Baldwin, dismissing it in the middle of the actor’s trial and saying it cannot be filed again.
Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer dismissed the case based on the misconduct of police and prosecutors over the withholding of evidence from the defense in the 2021 shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film “Rust.”
Baldwin cried, hugged his two attorneys, gestured to the front of the court, then turned to hug his crying wife Hilaria, the mother of seven of his eight children, holding the embrace for 12 seconds. He climbed into an SUV outside the Santa Fe courthouse without speaking to the media.
“The late discovery of this evidence during trial has impeded the effective use of evidence in such a way that it has impacted the fundamental fairness of the proceedings,” Marlowe Sommer said. “If this conduct does not rise to the level of bad faith it certainly comes so near to bad faith to show signs of scorching.”
The evidence that sank the case, revealed during the trial’s second day of testimony Thursday, was the existence of ammunition that was brought into the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office in March by a man who said it could be related to Hutchins’ killing. Prosecutors said they deemed the ammo unrelated and unimportant, while Baldwin’s lawyers alleged they “buried” it. The defense filed one of many motions they had made to dismiss the case over evidence issues. All the others were rejected. But this one took.
The judge’s decision ends the criminal culpability of the 66-year-old Baldwin after a nearly three-year saga that began when a revolver he was pointing at Hutchins during a rehearsal went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza.
“Our goal from the beginning was to seek justice for Halyna Hutchins, and we fought to get this case tried on its merits,” District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said in a statement. “We are disappointed that the case did not get to the jury.”
The career of the “Hunt for Red October” and “30 Rock” star and frequent “Saturday Night Live” host — who has been a household name for more than three decades — had been put into doubt, and he could have gotten 18 months in prison if convicted.
Baldwin and other producers still face civil lawsuits from Hutchins’ parents and sister.
Prosecutors did get one conviction for Hutchins’ death. Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the film’s armorer, was sentenced to 18 months in prison on an involuntary manslaughter conviction, which she is now appealing.
Her attorney Jason Bowles said Friday that he would be filing a motion to dismiss his client’s case as well.
“The judge upheld the integrity of the system in dismissing the case,” he told The Associated Press in an email.
Marlowe Sommer put a pause on the trial earlier Friday and sent the jury home for the weekend so she could spend the day hearing testimony and arguments on the motion to dismiss.
Troy Teske, a retired police officer and a close friend of Gutierrez-Reed’s father Thell Reed who is a gun coach and armorer on movies, was the person who brought the ammunition into the sheriff’s office in March on the same day the guilty verdict in her case was read.
Teske and the ammo he said might be relevant had been known to authorities since a few weeks after the shooting, and special prosecutor Kari Morrissey had met with him last year, but they determined it was not relevant.
The evidence was collected but crucially was not put into the same file as the rest of the “Rust” case, and was not presented to Baldwin’s defense team when they examined the ballistics evidence in April. They defense would argue that they should have had a chance to weigh in on the evidence’s importance, and that the prosecution “buried” it.
The issue came up during the defense questioning Thursday of sheriff’s crime scene technician Marissa Poppell, who acknowledged receiving the ammo, a moment that the judge watched on a police supervisor’s body camera on Friday.
Special prosecutor Kari Morrissey argued that the emergence of the ammunition was part of an attempt by Reed to shift blame away from his daughter.
“This is a wild goose chase that has no evidentiary value whatsoever,” Morrissey told the judge during the hearing. “This is just a man trying to protect his daughter.”
The case’s other special prosecutor, Erlinda Ocampo Johnson, resigned from the case earlier Friday. Baldwin attorney Alex Spiro asked whether she had resigned based on the evidence issues being discussed. Morrissey said she believed it was over the holding of the public hearing itself.
Speaking outside the courthouse doors, Morrissey said she respects the judge’s decision but that there was no reason to believe the undisclosed evidence in question was related to the set of “Rust.”
The trial had barely begun when it was brought to a close. Prosecutors had only started to make their case, and none of the eyewitnesses from the set had testified yet.
Baldwin’s younger brother Stephen Baldwin and older sister Elizabeth Keuchler, both actors themselves, sat behind him in the gallery next to his wife each day of the trial, which was streamed live by AP and Court TV. Reporters from both coasts filled the small courtroom, and had stations outside for arrivals and departures of trial players.
The judge dealt a serious blow to the prosecution’s case when on the eve of the trial on Monday when she ruled that Baldwin’s role as a producer on the film was not relevant and had to be left out.
Still, prosecutors forged ahead, painting Baldwin in their openings as a reckless performer who “played make-believe” while flouting basic gun safety rules.
Baldwin’s attorney Spiro argued that he did only what actors always do on the “Rust” set, and that the necessary safety steps must be taken before a gun reaches a performer’s hand.

Ryanair ‘flight from hell’ makes emergency landing after mid-air mass brawl

Ryanair ‘flight from hell’ makes emergency landing after mid-air mass brawl
Updated 11 July 2024

Ryanair ‘flight from hell’ makes emergency landing after mid-air mass brawl

Ryanair ‘flight from hell’ makes emergency landing after mid-air mass brawl
  • Fight erupted after one of the passengers refused to swap seats
  • Pilots made emergency landing in Marrakech after situation escalated and one women became ill

LONDON: A Ryanair flight from Agadir to London was forced to make an emergency landing in Marrakech last week after a mass brawl erupted between passengers.

“It was like the flight from hell. And it all escalated from that one passenger wanting to change seats,” an unnamed passenger reportedly told the media.

Witnesses said that the brawl started shortly after takeoff from the Moroccan city when a man in his twenties asked a woman to swap seats so he could sit next to his family.

The woman refused to change seats since she was already sitting with her daughter, prompting the man to begin threatening her.

The altercation led to the intervention of the woman’s husband, who started defending his wife, leading to the brawl. Other family members quickly joined in.

Video footage shared online shows passengers screaming, pushing and throwing punches in the aisle as cabin crew attempted to intervene.

“They were trying to punch each other. One of the families was part of a larger group so other passengers started to join in,” the fellow passage added.

In the middle of the drama, another person onboard the plane fell ill and had to be given oxygen mid-flight.

As the situation escalated, the pilots decided to divert the flight and make an emergency landing in Marrakech, where the police intervened to offload the “disruptive” passengers.

The ill passenger was also treated but was determined to continue her flight. She refused to disembark, requiring authorities to remove her, causing further delays.

By the time the situation was resolved, the cabin crew had reached their permitted flying hours, forcing the flight to be postponed to the following day.

A Ryanair spokesperson confirmed the incident, saying that the flight had to be postponed after a “small group of passengers became disruptive.”

They added that a series of events led to the rescheduling of the flight’s departure and apologized to customers for the diversion.

At least 65 pilot whales die in Scottish mass stranding

At least 65 pilot whales die in Scottish mass stranding
Updated 11 July 2024

At least 65 pilot whales die in Scottish mass stranding

At least 65 pilot whales die in Scottish mass stranding
  • Medics found there to be about 77 animals high up the beach, having evidently been stranded for several hours already
  • 12 of them were still alive

LONDON: At least 65 long-finned pilot whales have died after being stranded on an island off the north coast of Scotland, a rescue charity said on Thursday, in one of the largest mass strandings in Britain in recent times.
The British Divers Marine Life Rescue said it had been alerted to the stranding earlier in the day and sent medics to a beach on Sanday, a Scottish island in the Orkney archipelago.
“On arrival, the medics found there to be about 77 animals high up the beach, having evidently been stranded for several hours already. Sadly, only 12 of them (were) still alive at this point,” the charity said in a statement.
Whales can get stranded on shore for a range of reasons, such as when they lose their way or get trapped by tides, but scientists say there is no single definitive reason behind the phenomenon, which has been recorded throughout history.
Pilot whales, in particular, have close social bonds and when one member of a pod gets into difficulties others often follow them, resulting in mass strandings.
Almost a year ago a similar event involving pilot whales occurred on Lewis, another Scottish island located to the west of the mainland, when at least 55 whales died or were euthanized. A mass stranding also occurred in Western Australia earlier this year.