The federal government is putting $740,000 toward further assessing the feasibility of searching a Winnipeg-area landfill for the remains of two First Nations women.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Gary Anandasangaree said Wednesday that more research is needed to figure out how a search could be done.
An initial feasibility, also funded by the federal government, found that a search would be possible but that toxic materials could pose a risk to workers. He said that meant more issues needed addressing.
He said that Long Plain First Nation, which is where the two women were from, had been asking for this "next step in the process."
"This is exactly the plan that they had sought," he said Wednesday in Ottawa.
Anandasangaree said he wants the study done within 90 days.
He said it would look at what is needed to launch any potential search, including personnel training, construction of facilities, equipment procurement, and hazardous, toxic, and biohazardous waste management.
He also said the money would go to Long Plain First Nation, which is about 100 kilometres west of Winnipeg.
"We're confident that the community impacted will be able to work with our officials to ensure speedy work is undertaken," Anandasangaree said.
Incoming Manitoba premier Wab Kinew had promised during the election campaign that his NDP government would search the landfill if he came into power. Anandasangaree said the federal government aims to work with the province on next steps.
Anandasangaree said the money will help governments get all the information they need before sitting at the table together to make a decision about the search itself, but he wouldn't commit to putting up the estimated $184 million the search would cost.
He said Ottawa is "in it for the long haul."
"Ottawa has always said we'd be there as a partner. It's an important step toward reconciliation," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday. He was expected to speak with Kinew on Wednesday.
The remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran are suspected to be in the Prairie Green Landfill, a private facility north of Winnipeg.
Jeremy Skibicki has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Harris, Myran and two others — Rebecca Contois, whose partial remains were found in a different landfill last year, and an unidentified woman Indigenous leaders are calling Mashkode Bizhiki'ikwe, or Buffalo Woman.
Anandasangaree said he spoke with family members, leadership from the Long Plain First Nation as well as the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs on Tuesday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 4, 2023.