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Josie Klakström

Infamous ‘Highway of Tears’ Gets Full Cell Phone Coverage

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Josie Klakström
Josie Klakström
 11 days ago

The recommendations came from a report made in 2006.
The sign on Highway 16 warns of the dangers of hitchhiking.Wikimedia Creative Commons

The stretch of British Columbia’s Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert is infamous for all the wrong reasons. The 450 mile of road is more often referred to as the Highway of Tears, where over 80 people have been victims of abduction and murder. Among the victims, a vast number of them are Indigenous women.

Disappearances have been happening since the 1970s, when hitchhiking was at its peak. Since then, the murders have continued, with the last in August last year.

In 2005, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police task force, E-PANA, was founded. The team of 13 homicide detectives and five missing people investigators was created to focus its efforts entirely on solving the cases of the murdered and abducted on Highway 16. However, the task force soon expanded to encompass additional highways within a year.

Now, governments are funding the project to ensure there is cell coverage throughout the entire 480 miles of the route between Prince Rupert and Prince George. The cost of the project is thought to be around CA$12million.

“So after all these years, 2006 is when the recommendations reports came about, and now we’re in 2021, and it took that long to get cell coverage,” said Mary Teegee from Carrier Sekani Family Services.

The coverage need was reported in the Highway of Tears Symposium Recommendation Report in 2006, which includes other safety precautions for the route.

Though the coverage installation is a step in the right direction, Barb Ward-Burkitt, from the Prince George Native Friendship Centre says there’s more to do to ensure Indigenous women are kept safe.

"We must continue to do everything in our power to prevent violence against Indigenous women and girls to ensure they are safe to travel anywhere in our province, but especially between communities along Highway 16."