The Highway of Tears will be getting provincial and national attention in the next couple of months, say local co-ordinator Mavis Erickson.
She has a meeting scheduled with new Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo at the end of September in Vancouver.
“In his victory speech he mentioned he wanted a national inquiry into the Highway of Tears, so we’re sort of holding his feet to the flames,” Erickson said.
While the exact number of cases of missing or murdered women along the Highway of Tears from Prince George to Prince Rupert is disputed, the vast majority of them are young First Nations women.
“B.C. leads the country in the number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women,” Erickson said. “That’s one reason we’re hoping to get a national inquiry into how the cases are being handled.”
Since Erickson took on the co-ordinator’s role earlier this year, she says there is one theme she has noticed.
“The big thing I keep hearing is women don’t report incidents to the RCMP because they haven’t gotten responses in the past.”
That’s one of the big things she is hoping would be addressed by an inquiry.
While she’s meeting Chief Atleo this month, she’s also meeting provincial Attorney General Mike DeJong in October. That meeting will also be concerned with getting an inquiry launched.
“DeJong said ‘no’ to a provincial inquiry because of concerns over how it could affect the Pickton case. He’s concerned a provincial inquiry before Pickton has exhausted all his legal avenues could present problems. As a lawyer, I can understand his thinking.”
With that in mind, Erickson is hoping to get the province to agree to an inquiry dedicated to the cases along Highway 16 from Prince George to Prince Rupert.
And while she’s hoping to get inquiries going at a number of different levels, Erickson suggests there is more that could be done to prevent further incidents.
“We hear a lot about the RCMP going into the schools to talk to boys about not joining gangs, and how dangerous it could be. Why don’t we have them going into schools to talk to the girls about the dangers of hitchhiking?”