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Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs sorry to see Miller leave Crown-Indigenous Relations portfolio | CBC News


Manitoba’s largest Indigenous advocacy organization is lamenting the loss of Marc Miller as Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations — but hopes his replacement will keep the process of a landfill search for two First Nations women’s remains moving forward.

“It’s disappointing, but I’m very happy for him as well,” Cathy Merrick, Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs told CBC on Wednesday, following a ceremony to welcome a delegation of supporters from Saskatchewan to a protest camp at Brady Road landfill.

Miller was sworn in as minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship on Wednesday as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled a new cabinet team. He began working as the Crown-Indigenous Relations minister in 2021, after entering cabinet as minister of Indigenous Services in 2019.

Replacing Miller is MP Gary Anandasangaree, who was periodically part of the House of Commons Indigenous and Northern affairs committee. He is one of seven new ministers who were sworn in on Wednesday.

Merrick said First Nations leaders in Manitoba are ready to work with Anandasangaree “to continue the good work put forward by Marc Miller” in the quest to bring home their missing and murdered relatives.

She also issued a challenge to the Toronto-area MP.

“If that man that was placed there as the new minister, if he has a heart, he’s going to reach out to us and he’s going to help us find our women in these landfills.”

Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller speaks during the Assembly of First Nations annual general assembly in Halifax on July 13, 2023.
Marc Miller was sworn in as minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship on Wednesday after serving as Crown-Indigenous Relations minister since 2021. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

Jeremy Skibicki has been charged with first degree-murder in the deaths of Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran and an unidentified woman whom community members have named Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe or Buffalo Woman. He has also been charged in the death of Rebecca Contois, whose partial remains were found last year at the Brady Road landfill.

Harris and Myran’s families have been calling for a search of Prairie Green landfill, north of Winnipeg, where it’s believed the remains of the two women ended up.

Earlier this month, Miller called the provincial government’s decision not to support a search of Prairie Green “heartless,” adding that the federal government is “willing to play a role” in a search.

The federal government has yet to announce whether it would fund a search.

“If it was anybody else in these landfills, they’d have the army here, but when it comes to our women, we have to beg different levels of government to make them hear us and to make them understand,” Merrick said.

A politician and his daughter walking with trees in the background.
Minister Gary Anandasangaree is a lawyer and human rights activist. He arrived in Canada in 1983 as a refugee with his mother, the biography on his website says. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The Manitoba Métis Federation thanked Miller for his work and welcomed Anandasangaree to his new position.

“I have had the pleasure of spending time with Minister Anandasangaree on many occasions in the past and look forward to engaging him on this and other matters of importance to the Red River Métis,” David Chartrand, president of the federation said in a release Wednesday.

New minister to speak with victims’ families

Anandasangaree said he will talk with the Harris and Myran families, and “ensure that we have a solution that they feel is just and appropriate.

“This is an absolute heart-wrenching issue,” he said at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday. 

“For me, on my Day 1, is to commit to ensuring that we support and get to the bottom of this.”

A man stands under a large white tent. People sit at tables behind him.
Elwood Zastre, chief of Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation, said he hopes minister Gary Anandasangaree will help Manitoba First Nation communities. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

The chief of Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation, located about 540 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, said the news of Miller being reassigned surprised him.

“Nobody says anything to us. They just put whoever they want there without consulting with us and letting us know,” Elwood Zastre told CBC at a gathering of Indigenous leaders in Winnipeg on Wednesday.

Zastre said Miller was “OK,” and he hopes the new minister understands how to work with First Nations communities.

“I’m just hoping that he does right for our people,” he said.


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