The RCMP is reopening its investigation into the disappearance of young women along a stretch of B.C. highway known as the "Highway of Tears," where a number of young aboriginals have gone missing.
The police are transferring files on the missing women to Vancouver, where specialists are available to review the evidence using the latest electronic databases, Supt. Leon Van De Walle told 500 mainly aboriginal women at a conference this week.
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Van De Walle, the officer in charge of major crimes in British Columbia, said the RCMP is dedicating eight specialists to the cases, in addition to the 25 investigators already reviewing them. The investigators are using Vancouver databases to compare the cases to each other as well as others across Canada.
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Police were also asked to extend the Amber Alert system to include missing women and girls, and improve emergency readiness and community support skills.
The RCMP is ramping up its investigation partly as a result of pressure from aboriginal women in British Columbia.
The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs sponsored the two-day Highway of Tears Symposium in Prince George this week to raise awareness of the problems along the highway. The attendees included senior RCMP officers, the province's solicitor general, social workers, First Nations leaders and the families of missing women.
The Highway of Tears is an 800-kilometre stretch of Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert. Nine young women, including eight aboriginal females aged 14 to 22, have gone missing on the highway since 1990.
Aboriginal leaders said up to 50 aboriginals have disappeared on the highway in recent decades.
Some of the missing have been found dead by the side of the highway. Others are still missing.
Police have not arrested anybody in any of the killings or disappearances. They do not even know whether the murders were committed by a serial killer or independent murderers.
- FROM FEB. 28, 2006: No evidence of serial killer in Northern B.C.: Solicitor general
Part of the problem is the lack of trust between the police and the aboriginal people. Federal NDP MP Nathan Cullen said the Mounties have a lot of work to do when it comes to rebuilding that trust.
He said there is a concern the crimes were not taken seriously because they involved aboriginals, especially women.
"If this were taking place in the Ottawa Valley or taking place in Toronto, and these were not native women, would the reaction be the same?" he asked. "The reaction would be obviously different."