After walking more than 7,400 kilometres across Canada, a group aiming to raise awareness and demand justice for the hundreds of missing and murdered women in Canada completed their cross-country journey in Prince Rupert on Friday.
The Walk4Justice group, led by Gladys Radek, began the Tears4Justice Walk in Nova Scotia this June. The group was welcomed to Prince Rupert at a ceremony held Saturday evening, where the topic of Canada’s missing and murdered women was discussed at length.
The subject is personal for Radek as the aunt of Tamara Chipman, who went missing between Prince Rupert and Terrace on Highway 16 in September of 2005. Chipman was last seen five kilometres east of Prince Rupert, and was said to be hitchhiking. She has not been seen or heard from since.
After Chipman disappeared, Radek began researching the topic of murdered or missing women and was astounded with how many cases there were. Radek participated in the Highway of Tears March in 2005 from Prince Rupert to Prince George, which was initiated by Florence Naziel.
Years later, little had changed.
“When 2008 came around, I couldn’t help but notice the Highway of Tears initiative was slowly falling to the wayside. I couldn’t help but to wonder why. Is it because this government doesn’t care about our people?” Radek asked during the welcoming ceremony on Saturday.
Radek started Walk4Justice in 2008, along with Bernie Williams, to raise awareness and demand justice for the alarmingly high number of women who have gone missing across the country, a majority of which are aboriginal.
Since the first event, Radek and other Walk4Justice members have been on three walks using various routes. This year’s campaign was called the Tears4Justice Walk, ending the cross-country journey by walking the Highway of Tears.
“Having walked across this nation several times, this is the most beautiful, most pristine area in Canada with the deepest, darkest secrets,” Radek said.
Radek was joined by Mable Todd, a 78-year-old Fort St. James women, Willy Abraham from Haida Gwaii and Hartley Bay’s Alec Clifton. Todd, Abraham and Clifton have participated in all of the Walk4Justice journeys over the years.
Additionally, along the route, the crew was joined by newcomers William Dick in Ottawa, and Kelly Houle in Winnipeg.
After walking the Highway of Tears, the group approached Prince Rupert on Friday evening. They were joined by a number of people outside of Prince Rupert who completed the cross-country walk with them. The group stopped to pay their respects to Chipman at the stretch of road where she was last seen.
The following evening on Sept. 21, the eighth anniversary of Chipman’s disappearance, a welcoming ceremony was held at the Fishermen’s Hall. All walkers shared their stories and reasonings for partaking.
“It’s a long journey and very emotional for all of us. But we care; that’s why we walk,” Todd said.
“My hearts go out to all of the people who have lost their loved ones, but most of all my heart goes out to the children that are growing up without a mother.”
The ceremony ended with a candle light ceremony to honour those women who have vanished from various points across the country.
The objective of the walks has been to stand in unity with all the family members to demand justice and a National Missing and Murdered Women and Children Symposium to discuss and devise a national action plan to eliminate all forms of violence against women and children.