For immediate release
September 22, 2017
Justice4Tears, Justice for Indigenous Women and Girls
Terrace, British Columbia – Our ongoing challenge is to demonstrate the extent of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada. The 724 km length of the Yellowhead Highway 16, between Prince Rupert and Prince George, is known across Canada as the Highway of Tears. The name references the number of mostly Indigenous women and girls who have been missing or found murdered along this stretch of highway.
There is much speculation on the exact number of women and girls who have disappeared on the Highway of Tears over the last 50 years, many people say that the number of missing women combined with the number of murdered women exceeds 50.
Tamara’s walk or Justice4Tears walk is organized by Gladys Radek whose niece Tamara Lynn Chipman went missing on the highway 12 years ago. A community feast at the Nisga’a Hall to honor the Tears4Justice walkers on their journey was held on September 20, 2017 in the presence of hereditary and elected Indigenous governance, family and local community members, a delegation from the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre from Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories, BC and a support team from Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS).
The walk began on September 21, 2017 in Prince Rupert and will conclude in Smithers, British Columbia for the start of the hearings on the National Inquiry of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“We are so honoured to be able to take part in the 7th walk through the Highway of Tears to remember Tamara Lynn Chipman. This walk is not only to remember her life, but to remember and bring light to the horrific levels of violence Indigenous women and girls face everyday”, said Summer Rain Bentham, Indigenous Women’s Support Worker at BWSS, “This is an opportunity as Indigenous women as family members and as survivors to reclaim space that for Indigenous women would be compromised or a risk to our safety”.
By all accounts, through consultation and conversation with women, the northwest and north coast of British Columbia continues to be rife with misogynist and racist violence against Indigenous women and girls. Misogyny and sexism is endemic in Canada and that permeates in the RCMP’s response to women and girls and in the legal system. There is a belief in communities that Indigenous women and girls on the street are fair game and if a woman or girl is in need of support any effort to get help often leads to her exploitation.
“BWSS often receive calls from women experiencing violence in remote communities and because of their limited options they may have no choice but to escape to larger urban settings including the Downtown
Eastside of Vancouver, Coast Salish Territory”, said Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director at BWSS, “It is a priority for BWSS as an organization to come out and support because women in northern and remote communities tell us that they don’t have access to services”.
There is no concerted political will by the Provincial government and the RCMP to implement changes to increase safety. The budget for the RCMP investigation into 18 murdered and missing women and girls along the Highway of Tears was slashed by 84 per cent. And while shuttles were promised, they do not run on the entire extent of the highway leaving many women vulnerable on the most dangerous parts of the highway. The Highway of Tears Symposium was held in 2006 and did not release its 33 recommendations until 2013.
“On the verge of the National Inquiry commencing in B.C in Smithers, we walk for the Spirits of the women and girls stolen from this land”, said Terriea Harris, Manager, Indigenous Women’s Program at BWSS, “Many Indigenous women and girls feel desperate to flee violence and oppressive experiences in the North but their only way of leaving is the Highway of Tears. The perfect set up for predators. The time is now for the Action and we hang on to the hope of what will come through the National Inquiry”.
Most of the cases on the Highway of Tears remain unsolved.
Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director, Battered Women’s Support Services
Tel. (604) 808-0507 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org