Canada is a huge country in terms of land mass, with large areas that are very sparsely populated particularly in the northern areas. That means driving hours to reach a town with resources and supplies.
Without access to transportation hitchhiking becomes the only option and this can be very dangerous.
This is why Highway 16 has become known as the Highway of Tears. The notorious road in northern BC stretches from Prince Rupert to Princes George and hitchhiking is prevalent here.
Women and girls, the large majority Indigenous, have been disappearing or have been murdered along this stretch for decades. The RCMP has reported 18 cases, but community activists believe the total is close to 50.
“A lot of people think that will never happen to us, but it happened to our family,” said Mary Teegee in an interview with CBC’s The National. She lost her cousin Ramona Wilson on the highway. “Because of that, I think you look at the need for safety.”
She was one of the community members who pushed for a bus service in addition to the Greyhound that runs along the highway with service that is very infrequent and often at night.
“I think people who don’t live in the north really can’t appreciate the challenge to get to services because of that remoteness,” added Teege.
In 2017, B.C. transit implemented a bus system that travels between Burns Lake and Smithers and it is $5 per ride. It is a good start according to local community members.
But now Greyhound has decided to cut their service, meaning one less means of transportation is available in the area.
The number of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada continues to remain at a crisis level. Although not all murders or disappearances happen on the highway of tears, they still represent a serious issue in our northern communities in B.C.
A recent report from the United Nations described action taken by the previous Conservative government to protect aboriginal women as “inadequate”. They said that the lack of an inquiry constituted “grave violations” of the women’s human rights. It also added that failures by law enforcement, had “resulted in impunity.”
As Canadians, we can no longer allow this to continue. Actions have been taken and the problems persist, so we need to do more.
To find out how you can help visit the website for the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC).