In northern BC, Highway 16 from Prince George to Prince Rupert is known as the Highway of Tears because of the high number of women, mostly Indigenous, who have gone missing along it. An RCMP investigation identified 18 women and girls who went missing or were murdered along Highway 16 and the nearby highways 97 and 5 since 1969.
On November 24, 2015, a transportation symposium was held in Smithers, BC, hosted by the First Nations Health Authority and BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. The symposium included representatives from 23 First Nations communities along the Prince Rupert to Prince George Highway 16 corridor, the provincial government, municipal government organizations, Northern Health and the First Nations Health Authority. The focus of the symposium was on finding safe and sustainable transportation options for people travelling this highway for both medical and non-medical reasons.
Following this symposium, on December 14, the BC government announced a $3 million plan to enhance transportation safety along this infamous stretch of road. A new ten-member advisory group made of local First Nations and municipal leaders will oversee the implementation of the plan in the coming months. The five-point action plan includes funding for:
- transit expansion on a cost-shared basis with local communities;
- a community transportation grant program to purchase and operate vehicles;
- First Nations driver education program to increase the number of Class 4 and Class 5 drivers in First Nations communities;
- highway infrastructure including webcams and transit shelters; and
- increased coordination of existing transportation services.
Photo credit: "Highway of Tears" by Izithombe (Flickr: Highway of Tears) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons - https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fb/Highway_of_Tears.jpg