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Thursday, July 4, 2024

Nadleh Whut'en unveils Hope and Strength billboard on HIGHWAY OF TEARS | MMIWG inquiry deeming deaths and disappearances a genocide

A new billboard, advocating awareness for the the Missing and Murdered Indigenous people was unveiled along Highway 16, near Fraser Lake (June 25).

A new billboard, advocating awareness for the the Missing and Murdered Indigenous people  was unveiled along Highway 16, near Fraser Lake (on June 25). 

The billboard, unveiled amidst drumming and speeches, features the message of 'Hope and Strength' and is located 5 kilometres east of Fraser Lake at the Tse Yaz Bunk’et Gas Bar & Café.

It was erected by Nadleh Whut’en, in partnership with Carrier Sekani Family Services (CSFS). 

Talking about the event, Serina Greene, Family Advocate at Nadleh Whut’en said the moment exemplifies the strength of the Nadleh community.

 “The billboards are important to draw awareness for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous people along Highway 16 and to bring hope and strength to our people,” Greene said. 
“It took a lot of people and partnerships to make this possible, and it warms my heart to see so many come together for justice," she said, adding, "I get goosebumps just thinking about it.” 

Last year, CSFS, in partnership with the Highway of Tears Governing Body, raised their own Hope and Strength billboards along Highway 16.
“Highway 16 has been a place of hurt for many Indigenous families, and we want to honour those families to the best of our abilities” says Julie Daum, CSFS Executive Director of Justice.
“Amidst the heartache of the Highway of Tears, these Hope and Strength billboards are a symbol of our resiliency," she said.

"The strength shown by families who have lost loved ones along Highway 16 is inspirational, and gives us strength in our campaign for justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Men, Boys, and 2SLGBTQQIA individuals who are missing or have been murdered along this highway. All of this work is for them.”




'Bittersweet' reaction to MMIWG inquiry deeming deaths and disappearances a genocide

For many British Columbians, a new report deeming the deaths and disappearances of thousands of Indigenous women and girls a "Canadian genocide" could not come soon enough.

The national inquiry into the ongoing tragedy, two-and-a-half years and $92 million in the making, culminated in a final report that was set to be released on Monday. CBC obtained a copy earlier.

"Our families have been fighting for this for so long and it's coming to an end," said Lorelei Williams, who testified at the national inquiry.

"I'm definitely feeling emotional."

CBC News
CBC News

Her cousin Tanya Holyk's DNA was found on the farm of convicted serial killer Robert Pickton. Her aunt, Belinda Williams, went missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside more than 40 years ago.

Since 2017, the inquiry has held 24 hearings and events to gather statements from people like Williams across the country. More than 2,380 Canadians attended those events.

"It's been a very, very hard process," Williams told CBC's B.C. Today

"Now, it's coming to an end but our women are still going missing and being murdered at a high rate."

Some estimates have suggested roughly 4,000 Indigenous women have been murdered or have disappeared over the past few decades.

The inquiry report said the true number may be impossible to establish.

Not just numbers

For Mary Teegee, executive director of Child and Family Services for Carrier Sekani, the data doesn't tell the full story.

"The report talks about the atrocities and it talks about genocide, which is very real, but we can't forget that all the statistics is somebody's daughter, somebody's child, somebody's cousin, somebody's friend," she said.

Her cousin Ramona is among those murdered along Highway 16, known as the Highway of Tears.

"It's a vindication and I welcome this report. I'm glad that it has been completed, but definitely there's a lot of bittersweet feelings," Teegee said.

"We could have been doing this decades ago."

Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC
Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC

Calls for action

The report runs to over 1,200 pages and includes more than 230 recommendations.

Judy Wilson, Chief of the Neskonlith and Union of BC Indian Chief's Executive Member, said she hopes the report will lead to immediate action.

"It's really timely with this report because we need to get on with the actions," said Wilson, whose sister was murdered.

She wants to see concrete change before the fall election. "We're dealing with it in every day of our lives," she said.

"It's hard to find anyone that is not affected in some way or another — our family is most definitely affected with the murder of my young sister at the age of 21." 



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