It was an emotional evening in the lobby of the Lester Centre last week as well over 100 people came to remember the women who have disappeared along the Highway of Tears; the turnout being considerably higher than that of the Prince Rupert meeting of the provincial inquiry into the same issue held a couple months ago.
The candlelight vigil was organized by he North Coast Transition Society with a big help from the staff working for MLA Gary Coons. The evening started out with a traditional performance by the All-Nation Dancers, dressed in full ceremonial regalia. The music – much like everything else at the gathering – was very personal and emotional to those performing it. Gerald Stewart from the dance and drum troupe sang a song he wrote after losing the woman he loved a few days after she gave birth to their child.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada has documented more than 600 cases of Aboriginal women and girls who were murdered or remain missing. This issue has touched every Aboriginal, Inuit and Metis family and community,” says Vicki from the Transition society.
Aside from the traditional singing and dancing, there was also poetry reading and a country song written by local musicians Bruno Hoy and Lance Clark about the women who disappeared on the highway.
MLA Gary Coons echoed the general sentiment in the room that not enough has been done to properly address the problem of disappearing women. Coons says that even when a serious attempt is made to try to do something the government drops the ball and doesn’t act. He pointed to the 2006 Highway of Tears Symposium report which contains recommendations, most of which haven’t been acted upon.
“33 recommendations came out, and that was five years ago…A couple of the recommendations were pretty simple: try to get some transportation in between communities, try to raise awareness in communities from Prince George all the way to Prince Rupert, hire some coordinators. The recommendation was for two [co-ordinators] but they hired one for two years, and that was five years ago,” says Coons.
The vigil also marked the end of the Highway of Tears poster contest, with 16-year-old Jenna Earp being selected as the overall winner because of her concise poster which the Mayor Mussallem described as “purposeful,” and that it could be used easily as a sign on the highway itself.
Other winners were:
1st Brandi Good, 2nd Chantal Walter, 3rd Marina Ponzini
Ages 16 – 19: 1st
Charmaigne Edgar and Stacy Bolton, 2nd Dorian Berchtold, 3rd Peter Diamond
1st Sheila Duncan, 2nd Lucy Heffernan, 3rd Melissa Haines.