thumb-2023-09-012-heather-stefanason-landfill This article is more than 9 months old

Heather Stefanson Launches Ads Declaring She Will Never Search Landfill For Remains of Murdered Women

Manitoba PC leader Heather Stefanson is running partisan ads politicizing search for Indigenous women believed murdered by a serial killer

Heather Stefanson, the leader of Manitoba’s PCs, has launched a new ad campaign promoting her opposition to searching a landfill for the remains of two Indigenous women believed to have been murdered by an alleged serial killer.

On Saturday, the Manitoba PCs took out a full page ad in the Winnipeg Free Press as well as site-wide banner ads on the province’s biggest newspaper’s website featuring a sensational and highly unusual campaign message from the incumbent premier, who is currently trailing by a wide margin in the latest opinion polls.

“Stand firm,” reads both the print and digital versions of Stefanson’s ad. “For health and safety reasons, the answer on the landfill dig just has to be no.”

The ad features a smiling photo of Stefanson, who has served as Manitoba’s Premier since replacing Brian Pallister in 2021, identifying herself only as “PC candidate.”

Manitoba PC ad placed in the Winnipeg Free Press

Over the summer,  Stefanson’s PC government faced a wave of protests in Winnipeg, later spreading across the country and even receiving international attention, over its refusal to search Winnipeg’s landfill for the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran — two Indigenous women believed to be victims of an alleged serial killer charged with their murders last year.

Winnipeg’s police chief previously stated that investigators believe their remains are at a local landfill where the body of another woman, believed murdered by the same alleged serial killer, was recovered last summer.

Neither the Manitoba PCs nor the Winnipeg Free Press responded to questions from PressProgress about how much was spent on the ads.

While newspapers are required to disclose how much money political parties paid for ads during federal elections, similar transparency laws do not exist provincially in Manitoba. Winnipeg Free Press CEO Mike Power also did not respond to questions about the newspaper’s advertising standards.

It remains unclear who the Manitoba PCs were targeting with a message opposing a search for the remains of two Indigenous women believed murdered by an alleged serial killer.

Manitoba PC ad placed on the Winnipeg Free Press website

Stefanson has been at the centre of controversy for months over her refusal to support a landfill search for the murdered Indigenous women.

Despite the federal government suggesting it would contribute to a landfill search, Stefanson has floated vague concerns about “human health and safety concerns” as the reason she won’t back it, later suggesting searchers could be exposed to “asbestos and other toxic chemicals.”

However, the same feasibility study Stefanson cited to justify her decision also says these potential hazards can be mitigated with proper safety protocols, planning, training and use of personal protective equipment.

Stefanson’s argument has also been explicitly rejected by the study’s authors.

“It’s pretty clear to most who have read the study that risks can be mitigated and the search can be conducted safely,” Kris Dueck, one of the co-chairs of the study, said in response to Stefanson’s decision. “Any argument, I guess, that would oppose those findings, in our opinion, aren’t necessarily based in fact.”

Canadian police in other provinces have also safely and successfully conducted landfill searches for the remains of homicide victims before.

Federal Crown-Indigenous Minister Marc Miller condemned Stefanson’s decision as “heartless” while opposition Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew has said Stefanson “made a serious mistake in ruling out a search.”

Stefanson has also faced significant criticism from civil society groups. Amnesty International called it was “indefensible” and said Stefanson was sending the message that “the lives of Indigenous women, girls, Two Spirit and gender-diverse people are not valued in Canada.”

Last month, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs unanimously passed a resolution calling for Stefanson’s resignation over her refusal to search for human remains in landfills.

“Heather Stefanson’s disregard for respecting human rights and promoting reconciliation as the Manitoba PC Party Leader means she will do the same if she is re-elected as Premier,” said AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick.


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Luke LeBrun
Luke LeBrun is the Editor of PressProgress. His reporting focuses on the federal political scene, right-wing politics as well as issues in technology, media and culture.

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