|Continued Support For The Highway Of Tears Initiative Urgently Needed|
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 23, 2007
On October 12, the RCMP stated that their investigation of missing and murdered women in the Highway of Tears investigation had expanded from nine to 18 women. Their review expanded the geographic scope of the Highway of Tears from the 800 kilometers between Prince George and Prince Rupert to now include the Kamloops to Prince George corridor.
"It has been 16 months since the Highway of Tears Symposium where recommendations were brought forward to provide clear direction on how all communities must work together with government ministries and RCMP in a collective effort to prevent more tragedies along the Highway of Tears" stated Lisa Krebs, Coordinator for the Highway of Tears Initiative. "With the RCMP now expanding the number of cases and area, it is vitally crucial that we all work together to implement the report's recommendations."
The Highway of Tears Symposium held in Prince George in March 2006 was organized by First Nations and Aboriginal organizations in the Prince George area to address the numerous disappearance and murders that have occurred along Highway 16, the Highway of Tears, over the past two decades. The symposium's participants included the victims' families, provincial ministries, senior officers of the RCMP, elected officials, and concerned citizens. The Highway of Tears Recommendations Report and its 33 recommendations were released on June 21, 2006.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and member of the First Nations Leadership Council observed, "We must learn from and act upon the recommendations of the report. The recommendations were written by those who cared, loved and cherished the missing and murdered women of the Highway of Tears. We cannot allow these tragedies to fall by the wayside; we must continue to fully support the great efforts to implement the recommendations. Doing so, we hope we can aid in the expanding investigations and perhaps prevent another senseless and tragic death."
The first recommendation to be acted upon was to hire Lisa Krebs as Coordinator for the Highway of Tears Initiative. Krebs has worked extensively on education and awareness campaigns, organized community forums that address and formalize the various recommendations of the Recommendations Report, and acting as the liaison between families, communities and the RCMP.
It is due to ongoing work, which Krebs plays a major role in, that significant and tangible changes have occurred within our region. The RCMP has altered their protocol allowing officers to sop and speak to hitchhikers. It is due to the coordinated efforts of RCMP, surrounding communities and Krebs that there has been a more focused effort on resolving these disappearances and murders," said Rena Zatorski, Councillor for the Lheidli T'enneh Band.
"There is an immediate need for provincial funding to continue with the much needed work. John Les, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, publicly stated his dedication and resolve in contributing resources to the Highway of Tears Initiative. Moreover, Premier Campbell has dedicated himself to creating a New Relationship with First Nations. It is very unfortunate that there is no provincial funding dedicated to the Highway of Tears Initiative to bring peace to the families of the victims, to organize educations/awareness campaigns and to coordinate preventative measures," concluded Mary Teegee, Director for the Carrier Sekani Family Services.
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BACKGROUNDER: HIGHWAY OF TEARS INITIATIVE PROGRESS REPORT
HIGHWAY OF TEARS INITIATIVE PROGRESS REPORT
1. Victim Prevention
2. Emergency Planning and Team Response
Smithers Community Action Group (1-6)
o Multi-agency, local approach to finding Smithers-based solutions to implementing the HoT Symposium Recommendations.
o First meeting was held on November 16, 2006 over 150 people attended.
o Similarly to the HoT Symposium, break out sessions discussing the four main themes were facilitated. The Smithers Community Action Group continues to meet and address the Recommendations.
3. Victim Family Counselling and Support
4. Community Development and Support Strategy