British Columbia

Missing, murdered indigenous women's families grieve at special ceremony

"The stage was filled to over capacity," said Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Chief Terry Teegee, who's lost two family members. "Too many of our sisters are gone."

Hundreds of people who lost loved ones gather near B.C.'s Highway of Tears

Matilda Wilson, middle, joined other grieving families during a mourning ceremony for missing and murdered loved ones in Prince George. (Terry Teegee/Facebook)

With hundreds of indigenous girls and women murdered or missing across Canada, the families of victims in B.C. held a mourning ceremony in Prince George.

The B.C government invited family members of victims to a three-day, private gathering there this week, which was held not far from the Highway of Tears where 18 girls or women have been murdered or gone missing. 

As part of a mourning ceremony at the gathering, each family who'd lost a loved one sent one person to sit on the stage.

Family members of B.C.'s missing and murdered women fill the stage during a mourning ceremony in Prince George. (Terry Teegee, Facebook)

"The stage was filled to over capacity," said Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Chief Terry Teegee, who's lost two family members. "Too many of our sisters are gone." 

Families broken by grief

Lilllian Howard travelled from Vancouver Island to attend the gathering. She lost her two young aunts, Helena and Christine Howard, to violence more than 30 years ago.

"People don't deal with it," said Howard. "They grieve for a little while and then they put it on hold. We were a large, large family, and that just broke the family apart. I'm here to go through the healing process with other families."

A display of Natasha Montgomery's life. The young Quesnel mother disappeared and her body has never been found, although serial killer Cody Legebokoff was convicted of her murder. (Terry Teegee Facebook )

"We should not be targets," said Howard. "We're mothers and daughters and sisters ... this national inquiry that's coming up, we're ready for it." 

Teegee said it's emotional and powerful for the families of B.C.'s murdered and missing Aboriginal women and girls to share their grief and find strength in each other.

"It is an historic day to see change for indigenous women in this province. I am a witness."

A display at the family gathering for young women who were murdered or went missing along northern B.C.'s Highway of Tears. (Terry Teegee/Facebook)

With files from Terry Teegee, Kym Gouchie, Andrew Kurjata