Only 30 km of nearly 800 km-long stretch of Hwy. 16 — where at least 18 indigenous girls and women have gone missing or been found dead — to be served.
Toronto Star, by Jan. 27, 2017
A partial bus service will begin on Monday, nearly a decade after residents asked for one, along a dangerous stretch of remote British Columbia roadway known as the Highway of Tears.
At least 18 women and girls have gone missing or have been found murdered along the highway that stretches from Prince Rupert on B.C.’s northwest coast to Prince George in the province’s interior. The highway winds by logging camps and northern B.C. First Nations and without public transit, people often hitch-hike. A majority of the women lost along the road are indigenous, many of the victims were teenage girls.
The new bus service will run six days a week, linking the communities of Smithers and Moricetown, about a 30 km stretch of the nearly 800 km highway. The province is spending $4 million on the entire bus service with the federal government kicking in another $1 million — the money is going toward the buses, driver training, webcams and better shelters.
B.C. Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation John Rustad acknowledges it has taken a long time to get the bus service rolling, but said that is due to geography and an effort to work with indigenous communities to make sure they have the safest service possible.
Rustad hopes to have a “comprehensive service” in place along the highway by the end of this summer.
“It is a lot of work that goes into this but we are very close at being able to make additional announcements in the future,” he said.
In 2005, the provincial RCMP set up Project E-Pana to examine the unsolved murders of women and girls in and around the lengthy highway. When they first launched, nine victims had gone missing or were found murdered along the highway from 1989 to 2006 — Alisha Germaine, 15, Roxanne Thiara, 15, Ramona Wilson, 16, Aielah Saric-Auger, 14, Tamara Chipman, 22, Nicole Hoar, 25, Lana Derrick, 19, Delphine Nikal, 16, and Alberta Williams, 24.
“The area I represent is about 280 km of that highway. There are small communities distributed over large distances. There is a real challenge in trying to provide the standard type of transit options we think about when you think about Vancouver to Victoria. Being able to come up with a model that could work, finding the resources to support it and do all the integrated work in the communities did take time,” said Rustad, whose riding is the Nechako Lakes.
“I know lots of people would have liked to see this happen quicker but working with the families and the communities to get this right was important,” he added.
Finding qualified drivers also added to the hold up, he said. “Different communities have expressed different needs. Trying to bring all those interests together to have a collaborative approach on a long stretch of highway has been a large feat,” he said.
A 2014 RCMP report concluded there were nearly 1,200 murdered and missing indigenous women and girls in Canada, dating back several decades, a figure many believe to be much higher.
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