Three young women are going right to the root of the decades-long Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) string of tragedies that has plagued Highway 16 for decades, and they’ve started in Prince Rupert for a documentary.
University of Regina journalism master’s student, originally from Houston, B.C., Tennessa Wild is leading the three University of Regina graduates along the “Highway of Tears” as it has come to be known throughout the country — Wild’s thesis (as will be shown through the documentary) explores why. More than four years after a 2012 investigative report by Wally Oppal and 40 years after the first murder victim, no significant and sweeping urgent transportation recommendation has been implemented.
The documentary, produced by director Wild and filmed and edited by videographers Emily Pasiuk and Alex Antoneshyn (and one gnome – Rupert), is dubbed ‘The Highway of Lost Years.’ Filming began in Rupert on May 3, with production days scheduled in communities along Highway 16, the highway itself and ending in Prince George on May 19. Southern shooting will also take place in Vancouver and Victoria. As part of her master’s degree, Wild is narrowing her focus on the issue.
“A year and a half ago, I proposed that I would investigate the Highway of Tears, and so I’m local — I was born and raised in Houston, B.C. and it’s a topic that’s really important to me,” Wild said last week.
“I think it’s such a big issue that spans the region, it’s hard not to know anyone who has been personally affected and I do know multiple people, and in doing my research I’ve gotten a lot closer as well, to community members that have experienced the tragedy first hand.”
Beginning their northern leg, the three spoke to incumbent NDP MLA candidate Jennifer Rice, who has served as North Coast MLA for the past legislature session after the recommendations were published.
“[She] has spoken a lot on the enhanced transportation system and we were able to discuss with her the topic of the Highway of Tears and the solutions that she would like to see and the B.C. inquiry recommendations being completed,” Wild said.
On May 19, the filmmakers will hold a fundraising event in Prince George that brings folk singer Kim Gouchie and her music centred around the issue to the stage, as well as the commemoration of the late Ray Michalko, celebrating his tireless advocacy on the topic.
Proceeds from the concert and a silent auction go toward producing the documentary as well as the Highway of Tears Violence Prevention, Support and Awareness Program.
The documentary is scheduled to be finished by October and those interested can follow the project or donate funds at fundrazr.com/highwayoflostyears and on Twitter at @TCHwy16.