August 18, 2006
Canada: "Highway of Tears"
BY Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
A sign along Highway 16 marks the plight of the missing women.
Every spring when the snow melts, Sally Gibson organizes a search team to look for her niece, Lana Derrick, who went missing in October 1995. "It's a ritual," she says. Once the weather warms up, Gibson gathers her friends and encourages them to walk the desolate roads behind her house.
She's not alone. Families all along Canada's Highway 16 -- a 425-mile stretch of road that cuts through pine forests, rivers and remote Indigenous reserves in central British Columbia -- are searching for their missing loved ones. There was Delphine Nikals who went missing in 1990; Ramona Wilson who disappeared in 1994; and last year, Tamara Chipman disappeared.
The families have dubbed the road the "Highway of Tears," and Amnesty International estimates that 32 aboriginal Canadian women have gone missing in the last three decades along the highway, which runs from Prince Rupert to Prince George.
Gibson, whose niece has been missing for 11 years, refuses to accept that Lana is dead. "She is not dead to us, she is just missing."
Gibson, whose niece has been missing for 11 years, refuses to accept that Lana is dead. "She is not dead to us, she is just missing," Gibson says. Local police stopped pursuing the case a long time ago.
With eyes filling with tears, Gibson points to the green trailer where Lana grew up. "We all lived on this reserve together," she says, as it begins to drizzle. She zips up her cotton jacket and offers to give me a tour of her neighborhood.
As we walk around, it becomes clear that the reserve, similar to Indian reservations in the United States, is very different from other parts of Canada. Here, aboriginal Canadians live in stark poverty. A blue Ford pick-up truck with three of its tires missing is parked next to an abandoned tin boat. A stray dog sniffs through piles of garbage that no one comes to collect. A young girl in denim shorts roller blades past a pile of plastic bags and crushed beer cans.
An abandoned car on the aboriginal reserve.
It's a side of Canada that many don't see. The unemployment rate in this part of British Columbia is more than 90 percent. People here are suspicious of outsiders and feel ignored by the Canadian government.
When Lana went missing, her family contacted the Canadian police to file a missing person's report. "They gave us 72 hours; after that they said we were on our own," says Gibson. "To us, prejudice is alive and well in Canada, against our people. And every time a young woman goes missing along the highway they ignore it, because it's not one of theirs -- it's an aboriginal girl," she says.
In October 2004, Amnesty International released a report titled Stolen Sisters: A Human Rights Response to Discrimination and Violence Against Indigenous Women in Canada. The report linked high levels of violence against Indigenous women and girls across Canada to deep-rooted marginalization and discrimination. "Not enough is being done to ensure that police forces consistently respond swiftly and effectively when Indigenous families report a missing sister or daughter," the report stated. "And not enough is being done to ensure that Indigenous women and girls are not put in situations of extreme vulnerability in the first place."
"The problem is that aboriginal women are seen as prostitutes, as dispensable women by Caucasian Canadians," says Lucy Glaim, an aboriginal youth justice advocate.
Driving down the desolate highway, I see posters of the missing girls tacked to utility poles. In gas stations, family members have posted pleas to help them find their lost little girls. At the town of Burns Lake, I see a sign that says, "Highway of Tears: In memory of the missing women." Every town seems to have been affected.
"The problem is that aboriginal women are seen as prostitutes, as dispensable women by Caucasian Canadians," says Lucy Glaim, an aboriginal youth justice advocate. Glaim's sister, Delphine Nikals, went missing in 1995. Her family has not heard of her since.
Glaim acts as a facilitator between young aboriginal offenders, the tribal elders and the Canadian police. She says the police stereotype aboriginal Canadians and look at them as troublemakers. "If the Canadian police see us as disposable people, how are we going to get the respect of the Caucasian community?" asks Glaim.
Many of the small towns that dot the highway have their own theories about the missing women. Some say a serial killer is on the loose. Others think it's one of their own, a person who knows the community and the women well. Since the Canadian police routinely have no suspects and make no arrests in connection with the disappearances, the rumors continue to thrive.
Correy Millwater, Tamara's mother, holds an early photograph of her daughter who disappeared in 2005.
"I don't think a serial killer is on the loose," says Glaim. "It's easier for our society to lay the blame on one person, but I believe that there are multiple murderers out there who are racist and are targeting aboriginal women."
Further down the highway, in the fishing town of Terrace, known for its salmon, Tom Chipman is putting up posters of his 22-year-old daughter Tamara, who went missing in September 2005. Tamara's two-year-old son Jaden walks around with his mother's photograph tucked under his arm. Tamara's mother spent days in the hospital after her daughter's disappearance.
"I just couldn't look for my baby daughter in ditches and side roads," she tells me. "How can a mother bring herself to do that?"
Once the posters are up, the Chipmans gather around a makeshift outdoor campfire to discuss their next strategy and to reminisce.
"Tamara was a headstrong girl, she knew how to defend herself. So whoever took her was strong and knew what he was doing," says Tom Chipman.
One of Tamara's aunts points out that the Greyhound bus, the only public transportation from Prince Rupert to Prince George, is cutting back on services. "Unemployment is high in aboriginal communities, there is a lack of public transportation, and now they are cutting back on the Greyhound bus service. How do they expect people to travel? Not everyone has cars," she says.
Tom Chipman puts up a missing persons poster of his daughter Tamara at a local gas station.
Another aunt reveals a secret she has kept hidden from her family. Many years ago, while hitchhiking, she was picked up by a local truck driver who tried to rape her. "He put his hand on my thigh and tried to rip my clothes off," she says. "But I bit his hand and opened the car door and ran as fast as I could. I never reported it because I didn't think the police would do anything about it," she tells the group.
When I speak with Staff Sgt. John Ford, who handles media relations for the Royal Canadian Police, he tells me relations are good between the aboriginal community and the police.
"The message we are getting from the families is that they are satisfied with our investigation," he says. "They know we are doing our job to the best we can."
Ford denies this is a race issue but more the logistics of patrolling such a desolate area. "The area we are talking about is vast, it's rugged; witnesses are non-existent. It's as if these women have vanished into thin air," he says.
Reporter Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy talks to Staff Sgt. John Ford.
While the police make little headway, local private investigator Ray Michalko, a former police officer with the Canadian mounted police, has started his own investigation. He has spent time with the families retracing the last steps of many of the victims. Now, he routinely gets tips from locals who would rather talk to him than go to the police.
Michalko has driven the stretch of Highway 16 and the numerous back roads that lead into the woods from the highway. "The terrain is difficult; the bodies could be dumped anywhere," he says. "But that's no excuse for not finding out who is behind these murders."
Despite his ex-cop status, Michalko says the police aren't doing enough. "It takes most people a lot of thought and internalizing to get up the courage to call their local police with a tip," he says. "When they finally do make the call, they need to be made to feel that their call was appreciated and that they are making a difference by calling the police."
While many families still search for their missing daughters, Matilda Wilson, who lives in the town of Smithers, visits the grave of her daughter Ramona, whose body was found along the highway sexually assaulted and strangled more than 12 years ago. Ramona was 14 when she went missing.
Matilda Wilson at the graveside of her 14-year-old daughter Ramona.
"They took the light of my life away from me," Wilson says. "Ramona was a bundle of joy, she made us all laugh, she was so young. Why her?"
On April 9, 1995, Wilson received a call from the local police. They wanted her to identify her daughter's belongings. The 10-month search had come to an end.
"Someone asked me that if my daughter had blonde hair and blue eyes, would her killers be found?" says Wilson. "I think they would. Smithers is a small town and the police have to only ask questions and do a little investigation and they will come up with clues."
Keeping attention on the disappearances, the Chipman family organized a walk from Prince Rupert to Prince George earlier this year to honor all the missing women along the highway. They walked the 425 miles through rain and snow. Family members of other missing women joined in. They walked for 20 days, urging each other to cover 20 miles a day. In every town people cheered them on. They arrived in Prince George on March 30, where a symposium was organized to discuss what families and the police could do to make the highway safer.
In Smithers, local artists have also put together an art show to commemorate the missing women. Alongside a painted facemask of one of the young women, someone had scribbled:
I dreamt I held you in my arms, safe and warm
I woke to tears falling silently.
My heart is heavy and burdened
smothered with grief so hard to bear.
Please return to me and let me gently touch your cheek
if only in my dreams.
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is a regular contributor to FRONTLINE/World. Click on the links to watch her Rough Cut report about the devastating earthquake in Pakistan last year, and her 2004 broadcast "Pakistan: On A Razor's Edge" about the country's 50-year dispute with India over Kashmir.
I think that we should be careful in determing that it must be "a monster" who is taking these girls, and that if we catch the "monster", the problem will go away. There's more to it than just one man, and reducing the problem to only one person who must be caught ignores many of the other factors of the problem. I would be cautious in reducing the blame to only one person because it takes the blame off ourselves. In being complacent towards discriminatory, blatantly racist police practices, we too are at fault. Identifying the problems, as many people posting have done so well, is the first step. Let's take more. This is a national crisis. If it were any other race, it would be a national crisis.
How truely awful to feel your heart breaking and think that no one cares. Regardless of race, ANY violence against ANY person is unacceptable in any given circumstance. Where I live, there is A LOT of "thumbing it" and I say a prayer for every soul I see on the side of the road. I was taught not to hitchhike or to pick any one up but I do write down license plate numbers, descriptions etc. of situations I see relating to this dangerous mode of transportation.The very least people can do is pay attention to people alone on the highway and alert the RCMP if you feel the person is or may be in danger or stranded. We can all do our part to help out.As a mother, my heart and prayers go out to the families of the missing
girls/women and I hope you someday find the answers you are looking for.
Gail Rajala Hayden - Edina, Minnesota
A few months ago, I learned that aNative American couple I knew were deeply affected by the disappearance of their beautiful 21-year old daughter, Kateri. We are in the city of Minneapolis. Kateri has joined the dozen other young Native American women who have disappeared from our city under mysterious circumstances. It is not just here, or Highway 16, either. While traveling through the Central Nebraskan reservations, I was told by the members of the two tribes I visited that young women are disappearing there, also. Rise up, readers! Before we try to unravel the social and economic issues involved on the reservations and reserves, we've got to stop this horror. Please join me in deciding right now that today, tomorrow, and everyday thereafter, you and I will devote a portion of our time to making a loud enough appeal it will become a groundswell. Search for, rescue, respect, protect, and defend these women. It's up to us now because now we know it's happening, and because now we know it's happening, we are called to action. Resolve to help; save lives and our collective soul. Will you help me? Let me know.
Patrick Rex - Grandville, michigan
I just happened upon this article by chance in reviewing the worst places to visit, (or not go at all) and I am shocked. I travel back and forth to Alaska, and I have traveled this road a number of times and find it horrific that a crime such as this would be going on for so many years with no resolution. Canada, to me provides some of the most beautiful scenary and quiet solitude in this world. How is it possible that literally nothing as been done to save the innocent victims in this remote and beautiful area of Canada??? I would say to the Canadians of this province, do not stand b idly and wait for another victim to be taken, organize, rebel and rally together and demand justice through real actions on the part of the RCMP. This is absolutely intolerably that the RCMP have done nothing to solves these horrific crimes. Every soul in this world deserves, in fact has a
right, to be safe and free from fears of kidnapping and murder. Do all you can to bring more national and international attention to both this issue and the fact that he RCMP have not done enough to stop these crimes. I love Canada, as I said it provides some of the most pristine beauty left on this earth and it goes without saying that this is an embarrassment to the country and the RCMP.
mavis ekman - nanaimo, bc
This situation is appalling. More attention was given to the Boston strangler how many years ago? My own twin sister and mother were missing in BC many years ago and found drowned six weeks later and not knowing what happened was HELL. I am ashamed to be a Canadian woman in this AGE of technology and GPS systems, hidden cameras, CSI computers, satellite devices, radar devices, infra red and lasers, tasers AND devices that will detect pot grow operations etc. I guess we will have to wait untill someone IMPORTANT goes missing..Mavis
CAROL - williams lake british columbia canada, CANADA
IT SEEMS THAT THESE MISSING GIRlS CASE HAVE COME TO A STAND STILL. HAS ANYONE THOUGHT ABOUT WILLY PICTON'S BUNCH OF LOONIES HAVING SOMETHING TO DO WITH THIS CASE?I HAVEN'T HEARD ANYTHING MORE SINCE HIS ARREST. THERE HAS TO BE MORE COLD CASE FILES OPENED UP, IF THE RCMP HAVE SUCH FILES. MY SYMPATHY TO ALL FAMILIES.
My heart goes out for every family that lost a loved one on Highway 16. I pray that these murders will be put under total exposer. In the name of Jesus, I pray for those that are still missing and those that are found. I pray that the murderer will be found. My bible teaches us that whatever we shall ask, it shall be given. I wouldn't know what it would be like getting picked up by a stranger. Well, I was 18 years old when I used to hitchhike on the road to Prince Rupert. We were trying to make it to the Seafest. I loved to party and meet new people that was my target because I was just a little girl at the time wasn't really thinking of any danger. After the Seafest was over, we hitchhiked back home to Gitanyow. We were walking for a long time it was so hot that day, we were ten minutes out side Terrace just past Usk. This blue car drove by us. The man was a big guy and all I could see was his blonde hair. Ten minutes after he rode by us, he came back. With three big guys with him. I thought that was a close call for me. I took that day as a wake up call. Just before this blue Trans Am showed up, a man from Gitwangak village picked us up. Just when I sat in the car this car that came back turned right back around. He spun his car back toward Terrace. I didn't get the Licence plate at the time and cause we were safe, I never said anything to anyone. I just stayed off the highway.
Linda Riley - Saint John, NB
Being a mother of five daughters, I can only imagine the heartbreak and loss of these families. The lack of motivation to catch the offender(s) must only make it worse. It is very unfortunate that more has not been done. I pray for the families and hope no more girls go missing.
It must be a police officer or someone impersonating one. The women would stop for a policeman because they trust them. I know I would not pull over for any reason other than a traffic stop on that road, and neither would any other woman who knows the history. A police officer would know if any undercover decoys were in the area and would know not to strike. I think the Canadian Police need to look at their own. The should look for someone who lives in the area where most of the women went missing. He probably still lives there.
J D - Andalusia, PA
I heard about this by accident while researching on the web. I am sad to say that I am not surprised by the actions of the local police department and the way they handled the investigations. My heart and prayers are with the families left behind.
The length of time this has been going on is a disgrace to the RCMP. I don't believe it is a racist thing, I believe it is a person or persons seeing a window of opportunity.
Ron John - Oshawa, Ontario
To be honest, I'd never heard of this highway until I was looking at the internet tonight. It was on a list of the 12 worst places to go in the world. Wow, this is sad for Canada.
Ann Nelson - Fraser Lke, B.C
I feel there is more than one person that has done some of these murders. That is not to say there is not a serial killer who has done quite a few. There is someone that knows something,maybe they don't even realize they do. So PLEASE think carefully and report it even IF it is hard to suspect THAT PERSON. Remember serial killers fit in anywhere and YES it could be someone you know and or love.
We need to put our time and energy into finding out who did this and make sure we are all safe. We are not hopeless or useless - if everyone is concerned and cares then sign the petition online to force additional resources. There is always money out there. Make yourself part of the solution. Do what you can. Every little bit helps. Be aware of your safety, your neighbor's safety, your children's safety and your children's friends' safety. If everyone does just a little it will do a lot of good.
marissa bauman - mcallen, TX
My sister was crying because she loves people. She told me "I don't know who would do this to girls. It just ain't right." I am so mad at the person who did this. We have to find the person who is doing this
H Williams - vancouver, bc
Solicitor Generals of Canada and all Provinces should be more concerned about the quality rather than perception of policing. Personnel in the criminal justice system have to work with the presumption that the quality of police investigation to be high and the reports to the Crown Counsels to be accurate. Police work at the front line of the system and have direct contact with the communities. Visible minority communities' experiences with the police are quite negative and very different one from that of the rest of Canada. We can tell our stories of horrible experiences, but only when the Government is serious about the review of the whole Justice System and the whole workings of it, can they read into our stories to find weaknesses in them. As long as we allow police to take the stance that biased policing does not exist in Canada, and politicians only echo that voice, not only human tragedies, but waste of public resources will continue...Does any politician have the courage to stand up and say, we have to "Stop the Crime against Our Own Citizen" no matter what it takes?
david fisher - port coqiutlam, british columbia
How could this be going on for such a long time? What kind of monster is driving nothern B.C.? I pray for the families and hope those responible are caught...
diane - dawson creek, bc
I have been following the highway of tears for quite some time and I would really like to help out but I feel defeated. Helping in a search would make me feel like I helped in some way. I don't know any of these girls but my heart goes out to each family. If this happened to my daughter I would never quit looking or feeling my feelings. I just want to help in any way....
John and Doe Benn - Devon, England UK
Sadly, it is the way of this sick world. We live in one of the most densely populated countries and yet we see young women taking terrible chances to get to where they need to be. In northern BC, what chance have any of these girls got? On reading between the lines of your report, obviously we are looking at a well-travelled male, probably a truck-driver, and surely, in dealing with a sparsely populated region, it's time to ask questions, not only by the police, but also of everyone who uses Highway 16. This monster is doubtless a serial killer, there are far too many loose ends here. More than likely, he will have all the newspaper reports to hand. These consecutive murderers are conspicuous by their habits. Some one in your community knows far more than they're letting on. It's time to demand answers about someone you already know. That this on-going incident has occupied so much space in your newspapers and TV, is in itself, inhuman. Where are the eyes and ears of Highway 16?... Though we are on the other side of the world, we care enough to want to know.
judy schmidtke - erickson, manitoba
I can not believe that this has gone on this many years without any suspects.It is someone who everyone knows and trusts.I have been following this for about 3 years.
Julie Lauzon - Ottawa, Canada
Very touching. I am a mother myself and I can imagine how I would be if something would happen to my child. I have a two year old like Tamara Chipman and I can imagine what went through her mind. I am sure she thought about her little boy. I am a white woman but I find that there is racism against the aboriginals. If I could only know what I could do to help....May all the families involved in theses tragedies be able to find peace.
Girls are taught not to hitchhike. We know our rights and our wrongs. We were brought up very well thank you very much. It's just that truck drivers like taking young native women. Hey, I have no idea why but they do. If it's not truck drivers then I do not know. One thing is for sure, you Prince Albert Saskatchewan women just don't like the fact that highway 16 is getting more attention than where you are. If you want attention, go to the police. For something you say is not racist, I say is the way you wrote the comment, like hello poeple are not dumb. Just cause we are native, doesn't mean you could talk to us like we are dumb.
Girls are taught not to hitch hike, we know our rights and our wrongs, we were brought up very well, thank you very much. It is just that truck drivers like taking young native women. Hey, I have no idea why but they do.
I Loved My Auntie Ramona.She Died Lots Of Years Ago.I Was So Sad.
I Was Crying So Much For Her.
She Was So Smart.
Diana Wilson - Smithers, B.C.
I can not believe on how much native women went missing and now they are actually doing something about it!!! I have to cousins that went missing on this High way and I wish that they did something earlier and Find the Person/s that are doing this, there is alot of families out there that are missing there loved ones that has gone missing, we need closure on this Thank You Diane Wilson
Diana Wilson - Smithers, B.C.
I can not believe on how many native women went missing and now they are actually doing something about it!!! I have cousins who went missing on this high way and I wish that someone had done something earlier and found the person/s that are doing this. There are a lot of families out there that are missing their loved ones. We need closure on this. Thank you, Diane Wilson.
The bottom line is that girls are going missing. Someone should look at who drives that area all the time. The person who is doing this probably has been doing it for a long time and probably likes to watch everyone's reactions.
Penny Johnston - McLaughlin, SD
I have been searching the internet, regular news, community sites, etc. looking for information that would give me a pulse for social challenges and issues, especially race issues in this area as I am interested in a position working there. This is the first and only site that has allowed me to see the true challenges facing communities and families. Everything else I found is all about the prosperity, low crime rates, tourism, opportunities. Can you provide an update on this situation for 2007?
Marissa Felix - P.G, B.C
I wish my BEST FRIEND was here with me right now cause i miss her alot and she was found on The Highway of Tears i couldn't belive it that she was missing and i thought she ran away for a while then they told me that they found her 8 days later after she was missing miss you AIELAH SARIC AUGER REST IN PEACE
It's very troubling to hear that so many women can just go missing, and the police just think that its their own fault for walking down a highway. It shouldn't really matter what the color of skin, it's just really sad to lose another human being, especially a daughter, mother, or sister.
Kareena - Calgary, Alberta
I feel bad that I am coming upon this article so late. I truly believe that this is the best reporting and journalism that I have read in quite some time. I believe there is a great deal of racism in our country. Other countries are looking into the poverty of our first nations reserves and yet we turn a blind eye to it. Without the proper resources and help from police and outsiders these poor girls are left in the hands of brutal disgusting perverts who have no clue what beautiful girls they hold in their balance. It makes me sick. I feel this coverage is fair and honest. If people don't like it, rather than commenting on the brutal harsh words, they should try to understand why they don't like it and work on it from that angle. Maybe because there's truth to it and it stings. "The truth always hurts" What little coverage of Nicole's case was covered nationally, I do believe that more resource has been put forth for Nicole. But I also believe that a large part was due to the fact her family was a prominent family in the city of which they came from. And her father managed a large chain that helped publicize the case more. I went to school with her and I can tell you her story shocked and broke all of us who knew her and her family. Even with the amount of coverage her case got it was still not enough to find her. I can only imagine what you are all going through while at the same time I hope I never have to face the reality of it. More reporting needs to be like this one. Unfortunately this is a very honest and raw look at the suffering we need to focus on for not only the girls lost but also the loss of our first nations people.
For Sally Gibson, 2 thumbs up to you on a job well done. Glad you have faith that someday Lana will be found and I pray that she will be. Lana was an awesome person and was not ready to leave us! Breaks my heart. Such sick things can happen, and I hope who does wrong feels bad and if not, then God help you.
Carol Squires - Gitwinksihlkw, BC
Hello there! I found your site interesting and I was attracted to it because I knew Lana Derrick. She used to live the next block over from me. I have known her since she was a kid and I miss her dearly. I know her family and wish they would be put to ease with knowing the whereabouts of Lana, being that she is alive or gone. It would be great if they could at least find her remains, so she can have a proper burial. If you know anything about this, please contact the authorities. You can even do it anonymously on this or related websites. Thank your for your time. God be with you!
Strange things happens too many times to be just an occasion.
Therese Sam - Prince George, BC
I recently lost a friend to the highway of tears; she was my best friend and I could never forget her. I miss her so much. When I heard, my heart was shattered and I was in shock. I just don't understand how? Why would someone so heartless take her away from me her friends and her family? Aielah Saric, may you rest in peace girl; best friends forever!
Laura Holland - Vancouver, British Columbia
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan-white woman: "It is not okay, ever, to blame women for the racist, classist, sexist violence committed against them. I grew up on Highway 16. A woman doesn't have to be hitch hiking for the violence to be committed against her."
Lucy Glaim - Smithers, B.C.
The families of the victims place such a high level of trust in the reporters that come to their homes to question them. It is an insult to see the dates and other important information mixed up. My sister went missing in 1990. I know this because it was the same year my daughter was born. My daughter will never get to know the wonderfrul and beautfiul person that her auntie was. I trust you will get your facts straight before you continue to promote your film.
Does anybody know any other guestbooks relating to this?
I had a dream recently. Try looking near Fraser Lake. Just past Fraser Lake is Francois Lake. When you take the turn off, you get down to the lake to a small fishing lodge. From the fishing lodge, there is a garbage dump off a side road. Look in that area. I worked there 35 years ago. It's very quiet, very private, no one could even begin to guess. This isn't a joke. Look there with a canine unit.
My hope is to see these families find peace one day. I drive highway 16 often. I know girls hitch-hike often. I only ask:"Where are the girls, oh highway?
Where did they go?
Why oh highway, do I depend on you to bring me home?"
Helen Neilson - Mobile, Alabama
Very informative and heart wrenching article.I will keep all the missing in my prayers.
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
Now, as a white woman, I find some of your remarks rather nasty. This has nothing to race, or maybe everything do to do with race. I am not a racist woman and I have friends from all races because I don't believe that one person is better than or a group of people is better than the other. Remember please, Nicole Hoar is not of aboriginal decent, but yet she is missing too. I know, I know: one Caucasian, out of what, 17 aboriginal women - big whoop, right? What are 14 and 15 year olds doing out on the highway anyway? Women go missing in Saskatchewan all the time too (Cree, Lakota, Dakota, Dene); it is just more apparent I suppose on good ol' Highway 16. Better yet, look around the world; it happens everywhere. Like one woman said, why are kids not taught about the dangers of hitchhiking? And yes, it is unfortunate about all of these young girls/women that have gone missing. I know it seems like I don't have a heart, but there is only so much one person can do, and so many do try. I am glad someone threw a rock in the water; if only someone would keep throwing them in or the ripples will cease and all those people who have invested time into making us aware of what is happening will have been started for what? A pat on the back and verbal, you tried? I don't think that is good enough. If the government will not do anything, what the hell are we sitting on our butts for? We should be adding stones to the water.
My heart goes to all who have lost a loved one on the highway of tears. Are the police officers investigating the possibilty that these girls are being picked up by someone in their trust (i.e: police car)? This is theory. As i understand it, these girls would not go willing.
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
These missing girls were not women (yet)! No girl, whether she is a child, youth or an adult, should ever have to be eliminated from reality because of the colour of her skin, her race or the fact that she is female. Where is our humanity when we don't realize that every missing child/youth is our responsibility? As citizens of this great country, we owe it to each other to look out for the safety of all our children/youth, not just some! Thank you for your expertly written article. My heart and prayers go out to the families who are missing their loved ones.
Hi, Sharmeen, I met you with Gladys Radek. I am truly touched by your article. You are the first journalist who has touched on our truth as First Nations Peoples, when it comes to the injustice of how we have been treated for the last 500 years. The missing and murdered women of Canada is only one small indication of how we are totally disregarded and looked at as displaced people in our own land. I'm bringing this back to a kidnapping that happened a few months ago here in Vancouver. This young man who came from a very wealthy family was kidnapped and I tell you I have never seen so much mayhem in my life. There were 200 police officers involved. But when it came to our murdered, missing women of the downtown eastside of Vancouver, especially when the families tried to report them missing, they were totally disregarded because of their life style. To me it shouldn't matter. They are someone's child. I have been working in the downtown eastside as a front line worker for about 22 years...I believe the police should be held accountable for their lack of response...I would like to send my prayers to all of our missing women's families. You are also in our prayers.Bernie (Skundaal ) Williams
Denis Simpson - Oakland, CA
It is unfortunate to me that those who claim to be civilised, we the indigenous people of the world are still waiting for them to evolve, and find their humanity. Indeed racism is bred by fear, fear of becoming human, and humanity begins with loving one's self.
Reading and hearing about my sisters and brothers missing on the streets or moving on into the spirit world too early before we expect them to always saddens me. There are times that I wonder if this is a reflection of how our guests (Caucasians) treat their own. If so then, I think their values are evil!
Carol Martin - Surrey, B.C.
I was deeply touched and felt the heaviness within my heart. I work in the heart of the downtown eastside in Vancouver and everyday we see the end result of the effects of the residential school. My heart goes out to all those who have survived the horrendous years and to those who continue on carrying with them pain and suffering; I commend you on your strength and courage. My heart and prayers go out to all those who have gone missing and to the families, I send you prayers. I pray for racism to stop, to protect our elders, women, men and children. I pray for our people to find their way home, to utilize their culture, to build a strong solid family. No family deserves to go through the heartaches, pain and suffering of a lost child, woman, man. I am here for anyone who needs support. I work in the heart of the Vancouver area, where homelessness is high, addiction is visible, health and safety of our people needs to be addressed, where racism and prejudices exist, where violence is normalized. The women, men and children who went missing, you will forever be in my prayers for the safe return home to your loved ones.
Stephanie Lovatt - Victoria, BC
Saying that a 14 or 15 year old child is a woman is a way of saying that it is not really so bad. It indicates that there is some understandable rationale involved in woman slaying. It is a system that protects violent men by telling two lies at the same time.
William Dishner - Graham, NC
Young women, alone, draw perverts like bad meat draws maggots. Well written article, and I offer my prayer for the families' strength and the perp to be caught.
Kansas City, MO
It is a disgrace to all humanity that in the 21st Century such inequity still exists. To know that your life and the life of your family are worth nothing in the eyes of governmental bodies must leave one bitter, enraged and frustrated. The responsibility for the persecution of indigenous people falls upon each and every one of us. It will only cease once we all take a stand against it. It is all very well to shout from our armchairs about the demeaning and dreadful way the relatives of these missing women and children are being treated. If they were our missing relatives, we would be screaming in the faces of our representatives for action. Isn't it time we started?
I grew up in the Kitiamat/Terrace area going to school with Tamara. Yes, it is heart wrenching that Tamara is still missing and who ever else went missing, and yes Terrace, Kitiamat, Prince Rupert, Kitwanga and so on and so forth are remote areas, mountains, bush, and of course rivers course throughout that part of B.C. And yes, transportation may be dwindling but how about teaching kids the dangers of hitchhiking; most of these women hitchhike alone - what is more dangerous then a woman "thumbing it" alone? It is not that these women are picked on because of race; it is because a woman alone is no threat to a man or a group of men, especially a woman who has been walking for five hours, who is tired and would rather hitch a ride rather then turn back around and walk the five hours back. And yes, I have hitchhiked in that area, and yes I am kicking myself in the bottom because it could have been me instead. And I always remember that.
Brenda Wilson - Smithers, Canada
Great article! I would just like to say that there are many versions of this story and the facts start to get mixed up along the way. Ramona was not 14; she was 16 years old. To anyone else wanting to write about the story should be sure that their facts are straight. Thank you. I am Ramona's sister and my purpose on this earth is to keep her memory alive and to keep our future generations safe from the boogey man!
Therese - Napa, CA
My heart feels burdened for the families of the missing women and the surrounding communities. The communty seems to have really drawn together in support of one another. Be proud of that. What an awful way to create this kind of atomphere. My prayer will be that the truth of these missing women will surface and there will be not one shred of doubt. My prayer is also may the Lord Jesus sustain the families in his loving arms of comfort and that he would protect their minds and hearts. The poem is beautiful and so true.
Therese - Napa, CA
My heart feels burdened for the families of the missing women and the surrounding communities. The community seems to have really drawn together in support of one another. Be proud of that. What an awful way to create this kind of atmosphere. My prayer will be that the truth of these missing women will surface and there will be not one shred of doubt of who is involved. My prayer also is may the Lord Jesus sustain the families in his loving arms of comfort and that he would protect their minds and hearts. The poem is beautiful and so true.
I sent an e-mail a little earlier stating that 14 year olds and 15 year olds are still children, and should not be concederd women. Canada seems to downplay all the missing and exploited children enough already without much notice.
I do not understand how 14 year olds and 15 year olds can be called women? These are child murders!
I loved the poem best. Thanks to whoever penned those words, they must know how awful losing a child is.
gladys radek - vancouver, british columbia
From the bottom of my heart, Sharmeen, I am so greatful for people like you. Thank you for addressing the real issues surrounding our missing women, not only in northern B.C., but all across Canada. This article hit my heart felt feelings right on the spot. I am Tamara Chipman's auntie and have been searching for her through media internet and personal resources. I have advocated for her through the "Highway of Tears" symposium, the Downtown Eastside Women's Center in Vancouver, United Native Nations, National Aboriginal Women Association, World Peace Forum, World Forum in Geneva, Amnesty International, Chief Phil Fontaine and many more international organizations. To me, Tamara is not disposable. She is a free spirited young girl who is loved by a very large family. She is the young mother of a beautiful young boy, who resembles her. I met him for the first time at the "Highway of Tears walk in March 2005. I looked at Jayden and felt the pain in my brother's heart, when he looked at his grandson. The pain of missing his daughter was so strong because this little man looked just like Tamara, when she was a baby. My heart went out to him. He loves her so much.I don't want any more Tamara's going missing, but unfortunately, there are still young girls going missing. At least 3 more were added to the list since the symposium.For more information on these cases, the site is www.highwayoftears.ca...
Thank you again for the great journalism. Prayers for safety to all. Keep your children close and always tell them you love them.
All my Relations,
Wet su wit 'en Nation
saira qureshi - nyc, ny
Heart rending, inspirational and motivating. A brave work of accurate journalism. You touch upon feminism, social justice, equity, honesty and state the strength and hope of the loved ones, in the face of whoever, whatever was or is the reason for the disappearance of these girls and women...A lot has to be done, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Well done, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy!
Thank you for all your hard efforts.
Shelby Raymond - Terrace, BC
Excellent short article! Sharmeen caught the essence of the issues facing First Nations, Inuit and Metis families whose children are missing.
Shaheen Junaid - Pointe-Claire, Quebec
Amazing story, well researched, very true. Racism STILL exists although the least in Canada. We just have to look to the world to confirm that. I hope this world can get over and look beyond colour, caste and creed. We should all vow for a world free of racism. Good luck.