Increasing safety on Hwy. of Tears

Cheslatta Carrier Nation chief says government has not done enough.

There is still much debate over the exact number of women who have gone missing along the stretch of Hwy. 16 commonly referred to as the highway of tears.

While the RCMP says at least 18 women went missing or were murdered along Hwy. 16 and the adjacent Hwy. 97 and Hwy. 5 since the 1970s, many people living in Northern B.C. believe that number could be higher.

In fact, Cheslatta Carrier Nation chief Corinna Leween says the issue of public safety along the highway of tears doesn’t only concern women. With less than 350 people, Cheslatta Carrier Nation has had five of their members gone missing over the years.

“We have had an entire family gone missing – mother, father and their two children; then years later the father of the family also went missing,” said Leween. “This is all under suspicious conditions.”

Leween says she doesn’t believe the provincial government has made a conscious effort to address the issue of public safety along Hwy. 16.

“One of the recommendations that was put forward at the symposium in Prince George in early 2000 was the shuttle bus concept,” explained Leween. “To this day, it has not been implemented and no funding has been allocated yet; hence hitchhiking continues.”

Leween added she was “insulted” by the recent findings of the B.C. privacy commissioner. Last month, a report by B.C. privacy commissioner Elizabeth Denham revealed that B.C. transportation ministry staff had deleted emails and records about the highway of tears.

“Our people deserve dignity and honesty,” said Leween. “By covering up the facts it shows that those that did this don’t care about our people and society in general.”