Highway of Tears safe house underway to keep vulnerable mothers and children together

Construction of a new safe house for women and children is underway along Highway 16, known as the Highway of Tears, in order to provide a shelter offering protection from family violence.

A 2006 report about the notorious highway calls for a network of at least 22 safe houses

Construction of the safe house is underway after a groundbreaking ceremony took place at the Woyenne Reserve on May 25, 2018. (Submitted by CMHC)

Construction of a new safe house for women and children is underway along Highway 16, known as the Highway of Tears, in order to provide a shelter offering protection from family violence. 

The safe house on Lake Babine Nation's Woyenne Indian Reserve in the centre of Burns Lake will have room for 23 people.

"There are very few services that we have in the North and it's definitely a need," said Mary Teegee, the executive director of Carrier Sekani Family Services.

The project is a partnership between Teegee's family services organization and the Lake Babine Nation and is over a decade in the making.

An artist rendering of the safe house, expected to be done by March 2019. (Submitted by CMHC)

Projects like the safe house will help not only women escaping violence but entire families, Teegee told Carolina De Ryk, the host of CBC's Daybreak North.

Oftentimes in domestic violence cases, children are deemed at risk and removed from the household, she said.

"In this case, if there is domestic violence situations, they're able to have the children and mother be together," Teegee said.  

Construction is expected to be completed by March 2019.

Recommended changes

More safe houses are needed along the Highway of Tears, Teegee said, citing a 2006 report looking at improving the safety of women and children.

One of the recommendations on the list calls for a network of at least 22 safe homes to be established between Prince Rupert and Prince George.

"We have a few [safe houses] but given the vastness of the area, the North is so large, that I'm hoping that the other levels of government will take the lead from us," Teegee said.

The Canadian government provided roughly $1.89 million for the project through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

"This is a step in the right direction," Teegee said. "But there is no rest. It's absolutely just a start."

Building more safe houses is one of the recommendations in a report about the highway. 6:11

With files from Daybreak North.