Saturday, May 31, 2014

Where are the Missing Aboriginal Women?


Researchers examine hitchhiking along B.C.’s so-called Highway of Tears
James Keller
Vancouver — The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, May 25, 2014
Hitchhiking season is well underway in northern British Columbia, and that means Prof. Jacqueline Holler regularly drives by people hoping for a lift along Highway 16, not far from her home in the Prince George area.
For some people living in the region, where a grim history of missing and murdered women has earned Highway 16 the nickname the Highway of Tears, thumbing rides is a fact of life.
"Some are travelling, some are going tree planting, some are just coming into Prince George to do some shopping," says Holler, who teaches gender studies at the University of Northern British Columbia.
"I don’t see that changing, especially with diminishing transportation options in the north."
Holler is currently working with the RCMP to study hitchhiking in northern B.C.
When they’re finished, she hopes to better understand what leads people to choose hitchhiking and what governments can do to make them safer — either by offering safe, affordable transportation options or putting in measures to make hitchhiking itself less dangerous.
At least 18 women and girls, many of them aboriginal, have been murdered or disappeared along Highway 16 and the adjacent Highways 5 and 97 since 1969.
Many of them were believed to be hitchhiking when they were last seen alive, and some of the recommendations for the Highway of Tears have focused on the dangers associated with hitchhiking and a lack of transportation linking remote communities and First Nations reserves.
"Hitchhiking takes on a particular importance in the Highway of Tears discussion because there are serious transportation needs that aren’t being met in the north," said Holler, who stressed that not all Highway of Tears victims were hitchhikers.
"The easy solution is to say, ‘Don’t ever hitchhike, and you’re much less likely to become a victim,’ but it’s just not that simple. For many people, hitchhiking is an absolute necessity."
The RCMP approached Holler and her colleagues about the possibility of studying hitchhiking, and they officially launched the project in September 2012.
Holler and her fellow researchers developed an online survey to ask hitchhikers about themselves and their experiences, while the RCMP has directed its traffic officers in the north to stop and gather information from hitchhikers they come across.
At the same time, several commercial courier companies installed GPS devices in their trucks to allow drivers to indicate where they see hitchhikers with the press of a button.
Holler said the project has recorded a diverse group of hitchhikers that range in age from their mid-teens to their 70s. Some say they hitchhike out of necessity, while others say they actually prefer it as a way to get around.
Aboriginals appear to be overrepresented, said Holler, likely because many First Nations people live in remote communities and may not have the resources to afford a car.
The one thing the hitchhikers have in common is that they continue to take rides despite the repeated warnings about the dangers of hitchhiking — a message echoed on a series of billboards along Highway 16.
The Mounties have shifted their messaging to reflect that inevitability.
While the force still discourages hitchhiking, it also launched a poster campaign last year with safety tips, such as ensuring hitchhikers tell someone where they are going and when they expect to arrive.
Staff Sgt. Pat McTiernan said traffic officers who come across hitchhikers approach them for the study, hand out safety information and, if the person is in a dangerous area, offer a ride to somewhere safe.
"We can talk to people about not hitchhiking, but the reality is, you’re still going to have people (who hitchhike)," he said.
The Highway of Tears has been studied several times in recent in years, including a First Nations symposium in 2006 that made 33 recommendations and the public inquiry into the Robert Pickton case, which in December 2012 called for urgent action to improve transportation along Highway 16.
Recommendations have included a shuttle system and other measures to address hitchhiking.
The provincial government has yet to announce any significant plans to address the Highway of Tears, and it has faced criticism that it has been slow to respond to the Pickton inquiry report.
The province’s justice minister has insisted the highway is safer, and she has singled out Holler’s hitchhiking study as an example of work that’s being done to improve it.
Holler wants to expand her study to invite participants from across Canada and to send researchers out into the field to talk to hitchhikers in person, instead of relying on the Internet, which may leave some potential respondents out.
But that sort of work costs money, and so far Holler’s requests for provincial government funding, such as a grant from B.C.’s Civil Forfeiture Office, have been turned down.

What's really needed is action on missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada
The Globe and Mail, Globe editorial
Published Thursday, May 22, 2014
Aboriginal women make up just four per cent of Canada’s female population, but they represent 16 per cent of female homicide victims and 12 per cent of missing women. The numbers, recently revealed by RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, are appalling, triggering anger and concern. Why do aboriginal women face a higher risk of violence than other women? In the absence of any easy answers, there have been many calls – including one from this newspaper – for a public inquiry.
Public inquiries have delved into everything from the future of health care to the horrific treatment of Maher Arar. In essence, a public inquiry is a government-ordered review of public events or issues of concern. They are meant to lay down the facts, discover the causes and generate recommendations for reform.
When it comes to missing and murdered aboriginal women, an inquiry would be useful in a very narrow sense. It could determine whether police negligence or misconduct played any role in generating those outrageously high numbers. It could probe whether the rate of unsolved murders of aboriginal women is, in fact, higher. (The RCMP says it isn’t.) It could examine whether the federal government and native governments are doing enough to address disproportionate levels of violence against aboriginal women. According to the RCMP, two-thirds of native women murdered since 1980 were killed by a spouse, family member or other intimate.
But many fundamental issues would fall outside an inquiry’s scope. The high numbers of missing and murdered aboriginal women may speak to the particular vulnerability of all native Canadians. And that may be bound up in all the other sad facts afflicting them to a much greater degree than the rest of the population: higher levels of joblessness, lower levels of education, higher levels of criminality and incarceration.
A public inquiry focused on the narrow topic of missing and murdered native women would be very useful. But on the broader issues underlying the much larger problem, Canadians don’t need another inquiry to understand the urgency of aboriginal peoples’ current plight. What’s really needed is action.
Six questions on murdered and missing aboriginal women that must be answered: Tim Harper
Stephen Harper won't call an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women, but there are plenty of answers needed from many sources.
Tim Harper National Affairs
Published on Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Tens of thousands have signed petitions calling for an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women. Signing a petition is easy, but other actions are more significant, writes Tim Harper. Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press file photo
OTTAWA—If this country were to take a serious look at the root causes behind the shocking number of murdered and missing aboriginal women, questions would have to be asked of many partners to this tragedy, not just governments and police forces.
The national aboriginal leadership, regional leadership and young aboriginal males must also provide answers to some of the cultural questions that have — again — been highlighted by the RCMP study, which determined there were 1,181 murdered or missing women in this country over a 33-year period through 2012.
The Conservatives will not call an inquiry. But questions must be answered.
If there were 1,181 murdered or missing women in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, or any other Canadian city, would the government have already acted?
The answer is yes, of course, so that leads to questions of police bias and government indifference. Did police forces across the country, even unconsciously, put cases of missing aboriginals down the list of priorities? RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson flatly denies bias, pointing to the fact that nine in 10 murders of women over that period were solved, whether aboriginal or non-aboriginal. But that figure drops precipitously when the victims were identified as part of the sex trade and a massive 2012 British Columbia study of the victims of serial killer Robert Pickton did find a police bias against, poor, addicted, aboriginal sex workers, even if commissioner Wally Oppal did not find the bias to be intentional.
Can the country’s First Nations leadership finally come together?
There are more than 600 First Nations communities in this country and it is naïve to think they could ever speak as one voice. But with the resignation of national chief Shawn Atleo earlier this month, there is a leadership void and no dialogue with Ottawa. The Assembly of First Nations will hold a special chiefs assembly in Ottawa next week to determine when a new national chief will be chosen, but in the meantime there is no national representative dealing with the Conservatives on an education bill (now on hold), pipeline projects or missing and murdered aboriginal women. On the question of the women, native leaders who are calling for an inquiry must also answer to their own vigilance and action when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence highlighted in the RCMP report.
Do grassroots First Nations support a federal effort to improve aboriginal education? The gap between education funding on-reserve and off-reserve has long been shameful, but Atleo’s resignation came after he faced fierce criticism by some regional chiefs critical of his support for the education bill. Opponents claimed the bill left too much power in the government’s hands, believed more than $1.25 billion in funding was too little and takes too long to flow.
But were the chiefs actually speaking for aboriginals on the ground or were they using the bill as a political club to oust Atleo? Aboriginal leadership in this country must explain why they walked away from legislation — however imperfect — that would have improved the education and future prospects of its youngest citizens.
Do inquiries spark action? On British Columbia’s Highway of Tears, 18 women and girls have been murdered or gone missing in a period dating back to the 1970s. Eight years ago native leaders urged a bus system be installed connecting northern communities to discourage women from having to hitchhike. Oppal repeated the recommendation in 2012. The British Columbia government has done nothing.
Does money solve the problem? Many Canadians view First nations as one big money pit, but this federal government can also play a little smoke and mirrors with figures. It claims it is spending $25 million to get to root causes of the missing and murdered women, but that is spread over five years and is not strictly targeted to that problem. Moreover, auditor general Michael Ferguson found a federally funded Native Policing Service, which has cost taxpayers more than $1.7 billion over two decades, to be haphazardly and arbitrarily administered by the federal government, leaving the police services in substandard, overcrowded facilities with funding allocated with little or no consultation. In short, vulnerable communities are left more vulnerable.
Does anyone care? Tens of thousands have signed petitions calling for an inquiry. Signing a petition is easy, but other actions are more significant. High school students at Notre Dame College School in Welland, Ont., for example, raised $7,500 — and awareness in the community — with its No More Stolen Sisters campaign. The money went to the Native Women’s Association.
"Young people in this country do care,’’ said religious studies teacher Paul Turner.
Tim Harper is a national affairs writer. His column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Twitter:@nutgraf1
Highway of Tears communities want fixes from B.C.
The Canadian Press/CBC News
May 19, 2014
Sally Gibson has been waiting nearly two decades for answers about what became of her niece, a 19-year-old forestry student from a small First Nation in northern British Columbia who vanished along the Highway of Tears.
There’s the official story: Lana Derrick was out with some friends and at some point ended up in a car with two unidentified men, with whom she was last seen at a gas station along Highway 16 near Terrace in the early morning of Oct. 7, 1995.
But that’s just one of the many theories, rumours and guesses Gibson and her relatives have heard over the years, a painful reminder that no one — not the family, not the police — has any idea about what happened.
"We have heard so many different stories and have been told so many different things that we don’t even know," said Gibson from her home in Gitanyow, the First Nations reserve where Derrick grew up.
"It isn’t like Lana died and we went and buried her and the pain will go away. She totally disappeared. That’s an open wound."

Derrick’s disappearance brought her family into a community of loss and despair, joining the relatives of at least 18 women and girls who disappeared or were murdered along Highway 16 and two adjacent highways.

There are the yearly walks. The memorial ceremonies. And the shared frustration that the provincial government has yet to act on dozens of recommendations to protect vulnerable women in B.C.’s north.
First Nations groups and municipal officials say the province should have acted years ago using a blueprint it already has: a 2006 report with 33 recommendations to improve transportation, discourage hitchhiking, and prevent violence against aboriginal women and girls.
That report was endorsed by a public inquiry report released in December 2012, which called for urgent action.
The 2006 report was crafted by several First Nations groups after the Highway of Tears Symposium.
Its first recommendation was a shuttle bus network along more than 700 kilometres of Highway 16 that runs from Prince Rupert to Prince George.
Other recommendations included education for aboriginal youth, improved health and social services in remote communities, counselling and mental health teams made up of aboriginal workers, more comprehensive victims’ services, and, of course, money to pay for it all.
Transit links key
Wendy Kellas, who works on the Highway of Tears issue for Carrier Sekani Family Services, wants provincial funding to examine whether any of the recommendations need to be updated. For example, the report called for more phone booths along the highway, while the focus now would be on mobile phone coverage, she said.
Still, she said most of the 2006 recommendations remain relevant, including the need for better services not only for aboriginal women, but also for the families of the murdered and missing.
And the proposed shuttle service is needed as much as ever, she said. For First Nations women who can’t afford their own vehicle, there are still few options if they need to travel for groceries, appointments or to visit family.
"I believe it is still necessary," said Kellas.
"It would have to be a system, very co-ordinated to make sure people in the more rural communities are able to get into the urban centres for the basic necessities of life."
The 2006 symposium was revived by a public inquiry that examined both the Robert Pickton serial killer case and the broader issue of murdered and missing women.
Commissioner Wally Oppal called for immediate action to improve transportation along the Highway of Tears and said the government should implement the 2006 recommendations.
But there has been little effort to hold consultations, and internal government briefing notes revealed work on the file was stalled for much of the past year. The province said it had to put its work on hold when families of women in the Pickton case launched lawsuits last year.
Justice Minister Suzanne Anton and Transportation Minister Todd Stone have declined repeated requests for interviews.
Anton insists the highway is safe, pointing transportation options including a health shuttle for medical patients and Greyhound bus service, which was dramatically cut last year.
Taylor Bachrach, the mayor of Smithers, said Anton appears to be suggesting nothing more needs to be done.
"Some of her comments seem to be trying to justify the status quo or suggest the status quo is adequate," said Bachrach.
"Transportation in the north is worse than I’ve ever seen it."
Nevertheless, Bachrach said he’s hopeful the province will actually start its long-delayed Highway of Tears consultations soon.
Transportation Ministry staff planned to attend a meeting with the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition, of which Bachrach is a member, last Friday, and Bachrach said he expected more such meetings to follow.
"I am keen to give the government the benefit of the doubt. If they’re willing to work on this, I think communities are, too."
Highway of Tears victims
The following is a list of the 18 women and girls whose deaths and disappearances are part of the RCMP’s investigation of the Highway of Tears in British Columbia. The women were either found or last seen near Highway 16 or near Highways 97 and 5:
Aielah Saric Auger, 14, of Prince George was last seen by her family on Feb. 2, 2006. Her body was found eight days later in a ditch along Highway 16, east of Prince George.
Tamara Chipman, 22, of Prince Rupert was last seen on Sept. 21, 2006, hitchhiking along Highway 16 near Prince Rupert.
Nicole Hoar, 25, was from Alberta and was working in the Prince George area as a tree planter. She was last seen hitchhiking to Smithers on Highway 16 on June 21, 2002.
Lana Derrick, 19, was last seen in October 1995 at a gas station near Terrace. She was a student at Northwest Community College in Terrace.
Alishia Germaine, 15, of Prince George was found murdered on Dec. 9, 1994.
Roxanne Thiara, 15, of Quesnel was found dead in August 1994 just off Highway 16 near Burns Lake.
Ramona Wilson, 16, of Smithers was last seen alive in June 1994 when she was believed be hitchhiking. Her body was found 10 months later.
Delphine Nikal, 16, of Smithers was last seen in June 1990, when she was hitchhiking from Smithers to her home in Telkwa.
Alberta Williams, 24, disappeared in August 1989 and her body was found several weeks later near Prince Rupert.
Shelley-Anne Bascu of Hinton, Alta., was last seen in 1983.
Maureen Mosie of Kamloops was found dead in May 1981.
Monica Jack, 12, is the youngest victim. She disappeared in May 1978 while riding her bike near Merritt. Her remains were found in 1996.
Monica Ignas, 15, was last seen alive in December 1974 and her remains were found five months later.
Colleen MacMillen, 16 was last seen alive in August 1974, when she left her family home in Lac La Hache, B.C., with a plan to hitchhike to visit a friend. Her remains were found the following month. In September 2012, the RCMP announced DNA evidence led them to believe Bobby Jack Fowler, who died in an Oregon jail in 2006, killed MacMillen.
Pamela Darlington, 19, of Kamloops was found murdered in a park November of 1973. The RCMP say they suspect Bobby Jack Fowler was responsible for Darlington’s disappearance, but they don’t have conclusive proof.
Gale Weys of Clearwater was last seen hitchhiking in October 1973 and her remains were found in April of the following year. The RCMP say Bobby Jack Fowler is also suspected in her death.
Micheline Pare of Hudson Hope was found dead in 1970.
Gloria Moody of Williams Lake area was found dead in October 1969.
Sources: The Canadian Press, Highway of Tears Symposium

RCMP not denying report of 1,000 murdered, missing aboriginal women
APTN reports RCMP arrived at tally after contacting other police forces across Canada
CBC News/The Canadian Press, May 1, 2014
The Mounties are not disputing a report that they have identified more than 1,000 cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls — hundreds more than previously thought.
The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, citing an anonymous source, reported that the RCMP arrived at their tally after contacting more than 200 other police forces across the country.
APTN also reported the Public Safety Department is sitting on a copy of the RCMP report, which the network says was supposed to come out March 31.
Supt. Tyler Bates, director of national aboriginal policing and crime prevention services, referred questions to the RCMP’s media relations office in Ottawa, which did not deny the APTN report.
But Sgt. Julie Gagnon says the RCMP report is not finalized and it would be premature for her to comment further.

National review

"The RCMP is currently completing a national operational review to gain the most accurate account to date of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada," Gagnon wrote in an email Thursday.
"This initiative will help the RCMP and its partners identify the risk and vulnerability factors associated with missing and murdered aboriginal women to guide us in the development of future prevention, intervention and enforcement policies and initiatives with the intent of reducing violence against aboriginal women and girls."
Public Safety has yet to respond to questions.
Earlier this year, the RCMP said it completed a "comprehensive file review" of more than 400 murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls within its jurisdiction, and would keep looking into other outstanding cases.
Briefing notes obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act show the national police force has reviewed 327 homicide files and 90 missing-persons cases involving aboriginal females.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada has said it is aware of even more cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls than the RCMP tally.
Mounties raped, abused B.C. aboriginal girls, rights watchdog alleges in report
Mike Blanchfield, Canadian Press/NationalPost
Feb. 13, 2013
OTTAWA — A new report by a respected international human rights watchdog has accused RCMP officers of abusing aboriginal women and girls in northern British Columbia.
New York-based Human Rights Watch uncovered one allegation of rape and others of assault by Mounties against aboriginals in rural B.C. communities.
The alleged incidents were uncovered as part of a broader investigation into charges of systemic neglect of missing and murdered aboriginal women along B.C.’s Highway 16, nicknamed the "Highway of Tears."
Other reports and studies have documented the broader problem, but the new report details specific allegations of abuse by RCMP officers.
None of the allegations has been proven in court. The RCMP did not immediately reply to a request for comment Tuesday.
Human Rights Watch undertook the investigation last year after a Vancouver-based agency approached it in 2011 complaining that authorities in Canada were not doing enough to address the problem.
"After years of hearing stories and doing our best to try and get some accountability, we felt we owed it to the girls to take the next steps, to try and get some kind of investigation and bring these allegations and abuses to light," said Annabel Webb, the founder of the Vancouver group Justice for Girls, which works with poor, troubled teens.
Human Rights Watch is calling on the federal and B.C. governments to participate in a national commission of inquiry into the matter.
"At the end of the day, what we want to see is accountability. Accountability for police mistreatment of aboriginal women and girls," said Meghan Rhoad, the report’s lead researcher.
"Policing is failing in terms of protection of indigenous women and girls in northern B.C., certainly based on our research."
Researchers spent five weeks in 10 northern B.C. towns last summer and conducted 87 interviews with 42 indigenous women and eight indigenous girls from age 15 to 60.
The most serious allegation involved a woman who told researchers that she was raped and threatened with death by four RCMP officers after she was abused in a remote location.
Other allegations include: young girls being pepper sprayed and shocked with a Taser; a 12-year-old girl being attacked by a police dog; a 17-year-old girl being repeatedly punched by an officer; women strip-searched by male officers; and women injured by excessive force during their arrests.
"In 5 of the 10 towns Human Rights Watch visited in the north, we heard allegations of rape or sexual assault by police officers," the report states.
"Human Rights Watch was struck by the level of fear on the part of women we met to talk about sexual abuse inflicted by police officers."
Rhoad said about a dozen young women cancelled interviews with researchers because they were too scared of repercussions from police officers working in their small communities.
Samer Muscati, a Canadian co-researcher, said the level of fear among the women interviewed was on par with what he’s encountered while researching abuses by security forces throughout the Middle East, Iraq, Libya and Sudan.
"You expect that level of fear when you’re in a place like Iraq, in a post-conflict country where security forces are implicated in horrible abuses," said Muscati.
"But in Canada, where police are known to protect citizens, it is quite alarming to hear the stories of women and girls, particularly."
The report contains a number of testimonials from women whose identities have all been protected.
The most serious is from a homeless woman identified as Gabriella P., who described being raped by four Mounties. She told researchers she knew the names of the officers, but refused to provide them.
"I feel so dirty," a tearful Gabriella is quoted as saying in the report. "They threatened that if I told anybody they would take me out to the mountains and kill me and make it look like an accident."
Webb said it has been difficult to bring the allegations to light because the girls themselves don’t believe in the justice system.
Webb said she hopes that upstanding members of the RCMP are outraged enough by the report to drive out their more abusive colleagues.
"First and foremost, I’d like to see a stop to the abuse," she said. "If we could just stop the abuse, that would be kind of a banner day."
On Tuesday, Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to call a royal commission or parliamentary inquiry in the broader issue.
"We know that along the highway that has unfortunately now been called the Highway of Tears, there are hundreds of women who have gone missing," said Rae.
A stern-faced Harper responded by defending the Conservative record on confronting the issue of violence against women.
"This is a very strong concern for this government. That is why we have invested additional resources in police enforcement, in investigation and prevention, and we continue to look to ways that we can act," Harper said.
"The murder and abduction of women in this country is completely unacceptable. We will continue to move forward with a vigorous criminal justice agenda to address these problems."
Also See:
 American Indian Holocaust
The American Holocaust of North American Indians!
31 March 2013
Metis and Aboriginal Leaders in the News!
09 January 2013
First Nations Chiefs are Corrupt!
17 September 2012
Does Incarceration Make Sense!
09 February 2012
Canada - First Nations are Victims of the Government!
(Part 1)
27 July 2007
(Part 2)
22 November 2011
Conflict Between the Canadian Government and the First Nations People
12 January 2010