In northwest B.C., the Highway 16 corridor between Prince George and Smithers will see four new billboards erected next week to raise awareness about murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG).
Carrier Sekani Family Services (CSFS) is partnering with Highway of Tears Governing Body to bring these billboards to the area to address recommendation nine of the 2006 Highway of Tears Recommendation Report as a means to further increase awareness about the MMIWG issue along this notorious corridor.
Yellowhead Highway 16, the 724 km stretch between Prince George and Prince Rupert, earned the title “Highway of Tears” due to the high number of women who have disappeared or been murdered along its route. Though official RCMP numbers acknowledge 18 murders and disappearances, activists claim the number to be higher than 40.
The new billboards will feature images and messaging of hope and strength to highlight the value of people in the north and that we are all, as communities, stronger together, CSFS said in a statement.
The billboards are part of a larger commemorative series project that will eventually include commemorative pillars at each end of the “Highway of Tears,” rest-stop signage and more to honour and remember missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, in addition to providing more education and awareness of safety along Highway 16.
“We hope these billboards act as a visual reminder to travelers to be part of keeping Hwy 16 safe for everyone,” said CSFS Child and Family Services Executive Director Mary Teegee.
“It is time to move forward with Hope and Strength and to honour our loved ones by making Highway 16 safe again,” Teegee added.
“While these billboards serve a reminder of our loved ones who went missing — we must do more to stop these violent acts committed against our people and people from all backgrounds,” said CSFS Board President and Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief Corrina Leween.
“We must collectively take part in ensuring a commitment to building a safer space for all of humanity,” Leween said, adding, “Please ensure that your MLA and MP’s help us achieve safe places and spaces for all.”
The billboards will be booked along this stretch until 2025.