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B.C.‘s infamous Highway of Tears

The Story


National Aboriginal Day is supposed to be a time to celebrate First Nations culture and achievements. But in Prince George, B.C. the day is as much about mourning the loss of several young women, most of them aboriginal. This 2006 CBC-TV report from Canada Now notes that 11 women have either been murdered or gone missing on central B.C.'s Highway 16, and the real number could be much higher. It has come to be known as the Highway of Tears.  Don Sabo, author of The Highway of Tears Symposium Recommendation Report, makes several recommendations designed to save the lives of young women. Chief among the suggestions is a shuttle bus system that would safely transport women travelling the road between Prince George and Prince Rupert, B.C.

Medium: Television
Program: Canada Now
Broadcast Date: June 21, 2006
Guest(s): Don Sabo
Reporter: Miyoung Lee
Duration: 2:32

Did You know?


• The 11 victims mentioned in this clip and also profiled on the Highway of Tears website are as follows (includes their age at the time they went missing and their status): Aielah Saric-Auger, 14 (2006, murdered); Tamara Chipman, 22 (2005, missing); Nicole Hoar, 25 (2002, missing); Lana Derrick, 19 (1995, missing); Leah Alishia Germaine, 15 (1994, murdered); Roxanne Thiara, 15 (1994, murdered); Ramona Wilson, 16 (1995, murdered); Delphine Nikal, 16 (1990, missing); Cecilia Anne Nikal, age not given (1989, missing); Monica Ignas, 15 (1974, murdered); and Alberta Williams, 24 (1988, murdered).

• In 2006, the RCMP launched a special investigation into the case of the missing and murdered women. Initially their case involved eight women, the first eight named above. Ignas and Williams were added in 2007. The RCMP list does not include Cecilia Anne Nikal, though she is named on the Highway of Tears website. As of October 2009, the RCMP investigation has been updated to include eight more women. According to the Highway of Tears website, these women were added "after police did profiling and found similarities to those missing." These women are: Gloria Moody (1970, murdered); Micheline Pare (1970, murdered); Gale Weyes (1973, murdered); Pamela Darlington (1973, murdered); Colleen MacMillin (1974, murdered); Monica Jack (1978, murdered; a suspect was named in 2014); Maureen Mosie (1981, murdered); and Shelly-Anne Bascu (1983, murdered).

• The Highway of Tears website was launched in 2005 by Prince George businessman Tony Romeyn, who was moved by the stories of women who have gone missing along Highway 16. Romeyn wanted to assist the families of the murdered and missing young women. On the site, there is a map of Highway 16 that shows the general area where 19 victims were found or is said to have disappeared. Four of the 19 are listed as missing, while the bodies of the other 15 have been found and the cases considered homicides. Ann Bascu, who went missing in 1983, is the only one who went missing outside of B.C., in Hinton, Alta.

• The Highway of Tears Symposium was held in March 2006 by several Prince George-area aboriginal groups. The outcome was the Highway of Tears Symposium Recommendation Report, published June 2006. It states: "There is much community speculation and debate on the exact number of women that have disappeared along Highway 16 over a longer 35 year period; many are saying the number of missing women, combined with the number of confirmed murdered women, exceeds 30". The report says the term Highway of Tears was the result of the "fear, frustration and sorrow" that grew "within First Nations communities along the highway upon each reported case of a young woman's disappearance, or confirmation of a recovered body."

• Highway 16 is part of the Trans-Canada Highway and is also called Yellowhead Highway 16. It cuts through central B.C., from the Alberta border to the B.C. coast. It passes west through Prince George, Fraser Lake, Smithers and Terrace before hitting Prince Rupert. It continues for a brief stretch on Graham Island, one of the Queen Charlotte Islands, from Masset to Skidegate. The stretch known as the Highway of Tears encompasses much of the route, running 722 kilometres (449 miles) from Prince George to Prince Rupert.

 


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