Carrier Sekani Family Services Highway of Tears coordinator Brenda Wilson stands next to photos of Highway of Tears victims displayed at a transportation symposium in Smithers. Her sister

Promises but no action on Highway of Tears

Transportation Minister Todd Stone has promised to turn discussions into action after First Nations and government leaders met in Smithers

  • Dec. 2, 2015 3:00 p.m.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone has promised to turn discussions into action after First Nations and government leaders met in Smithers to consider transportation options to improve public safety along Highway 16.

At least 18 women have been murdered or gone missing along 700-kilometre stretch of road between Prince Rupert and Prince George.

Advocates say better public transportation is needed to connect small communities, which have limited access to services and amenities, and to reduce the need to hitchhike between towns.

The Ministry has ruled out a shuttle bus service, which was recommended by the Highway of Tears Symposium report in 2006.

Instead, it says it is focused on “community-based” transportation solutions which are suited to individual communities along the highway.

Northern Health’s medical transportation bus, a community-led service in Lake Babine, and the Seniors Helping Seniors program in Fort St. James were among the models discussed.

Minister Stone, who was not at the meeting but issued a press statement this afternoon, said it was an important step and promised to act on today’s discussions.

“We’re now going to turn the discussions into action and to work on a plan that provides an effective model for transportation along the highway as quickly as possible,” said Stone.

Mary Teegee from Carrier Sekani Family Services had hoped to see a financial commitment to better service today.

Her organization also runs the Highway of Tears initiative, which provides advocacy and support for vulnerable women and families of victims.

“We were there to ensure that the issue of the Highway of Tears and missing and murdered aboriginal women was not forgotten in this,” she said.

“The number one recommendation of course in the Highway of Tears recommendation is to have a shuttle bus and to develop a transportation system.

“I did bring that forward and I was hoping that there was going to be resources for that … that hadn’t been identified or announced today.”

Although Teegee said she had seen numerous reports and discussions on the issue, she was cautiously optimistic that this meeting was a step towards seeing improvements.

“The government says that they are committed to dealing with this issue,” she said.

“I’m not going to hold my breath, but I am hopeful.”

Today’s meeting also considered the results of a First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) survey on First Nations travel needs along the Highway 16 corridor.

FNHA engagement and coordination manager Mark Matthew told Black Press his organization’s main interest in partnering with the Ministry was to improve public transportation for medical reasons.

However, he said there may be opportunities for his organization to help other groups with transportation measures that improve public safety overall.

“Anything that looks solution-based beyond the medical transportation work that we’re mandated to provide, we will have to have more discussions on how involved we actually would be on that,” said Matthew.

“By us supporting the process it may sort of provide us direction to pursue other external partnerships but it won’t necessarily mean us delivering a service.”

Moricetown Band member Lorna Morris hoped any new service would help stop hitchhiking, which she said was a problem in her community.

“We have quite a few that are still on the road hitchhiking because of the rising cost of fuel and low-income, no jobs,” she said.

“It’s hard to say what can we do.

“There is a lot of options but it takes money to move a rock.”

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

North Coast BC NDP MLA Incumbent is seen with her wife Andrea Wilmot and their son Lua, as well as their dog Duncan. Preliminary results on election night Oct. 24 show Rice is in for a third term. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Jennifer Rice is North Coast MLA for third term

Preliminary election results show NDP Majority government

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

Poppy donation boxes have been delivered to restaurants, cafes, stores and places of businesses in Prince Rupert by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 127 for the 2020 National Poppy Campaign. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
National poppy campaign restricted by COVID-19

Prince Rupert Royal Canadian legion expects less donations to offer vital assistance to local vets

(Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay)
QUIZ: A celebration of colour

Fall in British Columbia is a time to enjoy a spectrum of vivid colours

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Most Read