You can’t help but shudder at the sinister nickname for British Columbia’s Provincial AutoRoute 16, known as “The Highway of Tears,” which is both a trucking passage and the winding graveyard of up to 42 aboriginal women—most of which assumed murdered by a series of active serial killers. In fact, the RCMP, Canada’s famous Mounties and the chief police force investigating the murders—believes there are active serial killers currently operating along the highway. The RCMP puts the official number of women who have been murdered along the highway at 18.
Running west to east through some of the most remote terrain in North America, passing by desolate First Nations reserves and logging towns, the highway has become synonymous with the endemic violence towards Native women in Canada: They’re five times more likely than any other ethnicity in the country to be raped or murdered. It really wasn’t until a white tree planter was murdered and discovered on the highway in 2002, that the RCMP finally launched a full-scale investigation. The taskforce, called EPANA, has had its funding cut several times in the last few years and no one is sure what they are doing now.
Ray Michalko, a former RCMP detective who quit the force, is now one of the only men on the job as a private investigator. He works directly with the families of missing or murdered indigenous women on his own dime. He takes VICE on a tour of, basically, Canada’s Valley of Death and connects us with the families who have turned to him after sometimes decades of stalled police investigations.
When I saw this video posted yesterday by the Tyee online, I sat down with a cup of coffee to watch it. It’s been a while since I heard the name Ray Michalko and it’s very much worth the time it takes to watch this. In the wake of the launch of former VPD detective Lori Shenhers book on the Pickton case, it was timely. In both the Pickton case and the murdered and missing women of the Highway of Tears, law enforcement has come under fire. Though separate cases, they are inextricably intertwined by sorrow,grief and a heavy feeling that results from a lack of closure on both.
Government has come under fire as well, for saying first this section of highway was safer than ever, and then quashing the idea of a shuttle bus along the highway last year.
But it wasn’t until May of this year when Tim Duncan blew the whistle on all of this -after stating he was forced to delete emails following an FOI request for the Highway of Tears– that an investigation was launched. The final report of that investigation was revealed today, and with it, the news that an executive assistant to Minster of Transportation Todd Stone lied under oath. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/highway-of-tears-email-deletion-referred-to-rcmp-by-b-c-privacy-watchdog-1.3284029
My reaction was swift this morning, and without exaggeration. And it makes me sick.Why?
Because those in the highest levels of this government, the ministers, their closest assistants and the premier herself, seem to have lost all perspective of how their actions have a trickle down effect that impacts many lives. These are not numbers, or stats…these are all people we are talking about here.
Rod MacIsaac committed suicide because he was fired and said to be under RCMP investigation. Only… he wasn’t. And his family can’t get him back. Apologies ring hollow. Lies and more lies. What page is that in the government manual?
Paige is gone. But the government response to the scathing report on her death- one of many in ministry care, or recently released from ministry care- was released on October 19th, the day Canadians voted in the most contentious election most of us will remember. No disrespect or attempt to squeeze that out under cover there. No, not in the most open and transparent government in Canada!
And yet…. there are more. And no amount of tears will get those loved ones back.
Tonight, I do still feel angry. But more so,I feel disappointed. Clark campaigned on bringing people back into government,on accountability and transparency. Yet… where did all those promises get us? Amrik Virk, a former RCMP member, fumbling through question period today when confronted with the opposition that thankfully chose to oppose.
The families of all of these victims- some of whom may still be here with us had government taken its job seriously and ensured due process was happening – have gone through enough. There is no closure. There will be no healing for many. But due process is not something this government allows to happen. Accountability is just a word that looks good in a promise, and even the most partisan Liberal supporter in BC needs to ask why that is.
When people are dying because of government action… or inaction, it isn’t an issue of left or right… it is an issue of doing the right thing. And if doing the right thing means admitting that you screwed up, you admit that you screwed up and take your consequences.
As a person of integrity, you do it…willingly. You do not pass the buck. You do not let a staffer take the fall. You do the right thing and take responsibility as a leader and let it rest on your shoulders.
But under the ‘open’ Clark government? Not so much.
Not so much accountability. Not so much effort to change anything. Photo-ops and happy smiles all while declaring innocence of knowledge of any of it. Which is really hard to believe considering staffers wouldn’t be doing any of this if they didn’t think it was perfectly acceptable.
Not even under Gordon Campbell did I see anything like this. It’s a culture of deceit and deflection that makes the West Wing reference look like pre-school, and House of Cards the playbook. There is a demonstrated lack of respect for the law, but more so, the spirit of the law.
And you were worried about Stephen Harper in BC??
They’ve been sharing some more examples of how ministers, ministerial staff and other have been circumventing FOI and document handling laws, and here is just one of a few posted:
It’s also worth a trip back down memory lane to when government removed the penalties associated with document handling… and I was questioning why a bigger fuss wasn’t made over it when it immediately came to the attention of the opposition.
This matters right now. Greatly. And it didn’t get a lot of press when it happened.
And tell me there wasn’t a bigger agenda here than making it easier to destroy old,unnecessary documents.
This was about protecting those who do the dirty work. And that is all it was about.