Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Women a Failure: Indigenous Group

People march during the 26th Annual Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver in February, 2016.
(Rafal Gerszak For The Globe and Mail)

The Globe and Mail | May 16, 2017

The organization that was the loudest voice in calling for a public investigation of why so many Indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing in Canada says the inquiry launched to determine the societal causes of the tragedy has, so far, been a dismal failure.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) will issue its second report card on the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women on Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained in advance by The Globe and Mail. The discouraging appraisal follows repeated complaints by advocates, family members and others that the process announced in late 2015 is falling far behind its intended pace and that communications to those who are most anxious for its findings have been insufficient or non-existent.

“This many months into the inquiry, we cannot afford to be nice any more,” said Francyne Joe, NWAC’s interim president. “Families are upset, they’re getting discouraged and we need to see action on the part of the commissioners to ensure that this inquiry is going to be family-first and is going to be respectful to the missing and murdered women.”

On Monday, families of victims, Indigenous leaders and advocates for those who have lost loved ones wrote an open letter to chief commissioner Marion Buller saying they fear the $53.8-million inquiry is in “serious trouble” for many reasons but, primarily “a lack of communication that is causing frustration, confusion and disappointment in this long-awaited process.”

The commission did not respond to that letter by deadline on Monday. But the report from NWAC echoes its complaints.

On 10 out of 15 measures – from structure to communications to transparency to respect for the families of victims – the inquiry was given failing marks. In three areas it received cautions. In two others, NWAC said there was not enough information to make an assessment. It was given no passing grades.

The report says, among other things, that the inquiry has failed to announce its timelines or issue regular progress reports and has left families and the media in the dark. The commissioners, it says, have created a sense of “desperation and urgency” by not making themselves available and not communicating regularly, and the money spent to date has not been best used to allow families to engage in the process.

NWAC charges that the inquiry is not being set up to take into account the trauma suffered by victims’ loved ones, and that it has failed in its mandates to promote reconciliation, contribute to public awareness and to allow families and community members to share their experiences and views.

Communication has been the biggest failure, Ms. Joe said. The media, not the commission, she said, informed NWAC last week that the lone opportunity for families to testify this spring will be at the end of May, and the remainder of family testimony, which had been expected to continue throughout the summer, would not be scheduled until fall.

“My biggest fear at this point is that this is not going to be a family-first inquiry, that families are going to come third,” Ms. Joe said. “There’s a lot of discussions around the technical side of things, there’s a lot of discussions around the legal side of things. But there’s not enough discussions as to how families are going to be part of this. And they have been the ones fighting for this inquiry for decades.”

A spokeswoman for Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said on Monday that, despite the concerns being raised, the minister believes enough time and resources have been made available for the inquiry to do its work.

A 2014 report by the RCMP said the force had identified nearly 1,200 Indigenous women and girls who disappeared or were slain in recent decades, and some critics suggest the Mounties’ list is far from complete. Families and advocates want to know why Indigenous women and girls are victims of violence far more often than other women in Canada.

The letter from families and others, which was posted on Monday to the website of Indigenous artist Christi Belcourt – a long-time advocate for the environment and Indigenous people – says people across the country are loudly raising alarms.

The letter’s signatories, which include more than 50 people and organizations, say it is clear that the approach of the inquiry must be “fundamentally shifted” and asks the chief commissioner to respond by May 22.

Ms. Belcourt said in a telephone interview that the letter came together in about a week and it was easy to obtain signatures. In fact, she said, more families and Indigenous leaders stepped forward in support of it on Monday after it was made public.

People wanted to give the inquiry time to work, Ms. Belcourt said, “but it’s simply got to the point where it’s become very obvious that it’s unravelling, and that it’s not functioning all.”

[SOURCE]

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RCMP Say Highway Of Tears Killers May Never Be Caught

RCMP continue to investigate the deaths and disappearances of 18 young women along a 720 km stretch of northern B.C. dubbed the Highway of Tears. (Contributed/RCMP)

RCMP continue to investigate the deaths and disappearances of 18 young women along a 720 km stretch of northern B.C. dubbed the Highway of Tears. (Contributed/RCMP)

“We’ve turned over every stone we can” – RCMP

CBC News Posted: Oct 17, 2016

A decade after the launch of the RCMP’s high profile Highway of Tears investigation into missing and murdered women in northern B.C., police admit they may never find the killers or make more arrests.

‘Perhaps they’ll never be solved’

“I’ve been honest with our [victims’] families and I say perhaps they’ll never be solved,” RCMP Staff Sgt. Wayne Clary of the E-PANA unit, told CBC host Anna Maria Tremonti during a townhall on missing and murdered women packed with several hundred people in Prince George Thursday night.

For a decade, E-PANA has been investigating the cold case deaths and disappearances of 18 young women along a 720 km street of northern B.C. dubbed the Highway of Tears.  PANA is an Inuit word for the god who cared for souls in the underworld.

At the height of E-PANA’s work, 70 people worked the investigation. Now, just 8 investigators are left.

“That’s the reality and that’s what I tell the families,” said Clary. “We can’t keep that going forever when there’s no work.”

Women pore over a map that marks deaths and disappearances along the Highway of Tears. (Contributed/UBCIC)

Women pore over a map that marks deaths and disappearances along the Highway of Tears. (Contributed/UBCIC)

RCMP have named 2 suspects in 4 women’s deaths

E-PANA was launched in 2006 amidst outrage over the number of deaths and disappearances of mostly Indigenous young women in northern B.C.

Indigenous leaders said 50 girls and women had been murdered or gone missing between Prince George and Prince Rupert since 1970.

E-PANA took on 18 of those cases, re-interviewing witnesses and families, following new leads and tips, and converting 700 bankers boxes of dusty police files into a searchable database.

Officers have identified a suspect in three of the murders, but that man is now dead. A different man has been charged with the death of Monica Jack, but that Highway of Tears case is still before the courts.

Still, many families are still waiting for answers and justice for their missing and murdered loved ones.

“We care and we’re trying and we’ll keep following up on the tips and interviews that come in,” said Clary.

‘These …are the toughest to investigate’

“These kinds of stranger-on-stranger investigations are the toughest to investigate,especially in this area, where it’s very isolated, it’s very lonely. A lot of these crimes happened a long time ago.  Some of our victims don’t get found, some don’t get found right away, and evidence is lost,” said Clary.

“Witnesses die. They may or may not know they had important information and [now] we’ll never retrieve it.  In some cases, some of the men who committed these crimes are dead,” said Clary.

Still, Clary says when victim’s families hold vigils or walk the Highway of Tears, the media attention often triggers a spike of tips to police.

“It’s important to keep this alive,” Clary said.

"Killer on the Loose!' is the warning on a prominent billboard beside Highway 16 in northern B.C., where numerous young women have died or disappeared. (CBC )

“Killer on the Loose!’ is the warning on a prominent billboard beside Highway 16 in northern B.C., where numerous young women have died or disappeared. (CBC )

‘I imagine 50 women missing from West Vancouver’

“It’s the people from the communities that are going to solve these crimes,” he said. “We’ve turned over every stone we can.”

“Who’s protecting our young Indigenous girls and women?” asked Mary Teegee, the Director of Child and Family Services at Carrier Sekani Family Services in Prince George. “I often imagine 50 women missing from West Vancouver. What would be the outcry? For one thing, the [death toll] would never reach that in West Vancouver.”

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/rcmp-say-mmiw-highway-of-tears-missing-and-murdered-women-cases-may-never-be-solved-1.3805609

Fort St. John ‘A Dangerous Place For Our Women,’ Indigenous Activist Says

Women are shown walking through the snowy streets of Fort St. John. The annual Sisters in Spirit vigils for missing or murdered indigenous women and girls in Fort St. John always feature an astonishingly long list of names for a city with only about 21,000 people.

Women are shown walking through the snowy streets of Fort St. John. The annual Sisters in Spirit vigils for missing or murdered indigenous women and girls in Fort St. John always feature an astonishingly long list of names for a city with only about 21,000 people. RICHARD LAUTENS / TORONTO STAR

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C.—Helen Knott remembers only that she was in an overcrowded apartment, not far from home, with another young woman and about eight men, all transient workers from outside the community.

“My body, my choices, my rights, my voice, taken that night,” Knott, a social worker, activist and poet wrote in a personal essay online about the sexual assault — not her first — that was so violent she feared losing the ability to have more children.

She was struggling with sobriety at the time and continued to spiral downward, binge-using cocaine and eventually leaving the city — and her young son — to escape to Edmonton, where she knows how close she came to becoming another statistic, another indigenous woman dead from suicide, drugs or violence.

“I was in this place where I was ready to disappear and I probably would have hit street level and how long would my life span have been after that? I’m not sure,” Knott, 28, recalled one afternoon in Fort St. John, the heavy snowfall settling on her hood.

She credits a friend in Toronto with saving her life by encouraging countless supporters to flood her with text messages of love and light.

“My body, my choices, my rights, my voice, taken that night,” Helen Knott, a social worker, activist and poet wrote in a personal essay online about the sexual assault — not her first — that was so violent she feared losing the ability to have more children.

“My body, my choices, my rights, my voice, taken that night,” Helen Knott, a social worker, activist and poet wrote in a personal essay online about the sexual assault — not her first — that was so violent she feared losing the ability to have more children. RICHARD LAUTENS / TORONTO STAR

She chose to live, to get treatment, to return home to her family.

She also chose not to be silent anymore, and devotes much of her time as an indigenous community activist to supporting other victims of sexual violence in and around Fort St. John, which she believes is linked to the fluctuating resource-based economy — and the transient, mostly male, workforce that comes with it — in this small city in northeast B.C.

“I see it as imperative to talk about things and start highlighting that, because it really does create a dangerous place for our women and our young women coming up,” said Knott, who has played a central role in leading protests against construction of the $8.8-billion B.C. Hydro Site C dam project.

***

“If you noticed the landscape around here, it is no trouble to go missing,” said Sylvia Lane, who runs the poverty law advocacy program at the Fort St. John Women’s Resource Society, where chaos reigns amidst the laughter and tears that come with serving a vulnerable population with never enough money or people to do so.

The annual Sisters in Spirit vigils for missing or murdered indigenous women and girls in Fort St. John always feature an astonishingly long list of names for a city with only about 21,000 people, especially since when people think of this issue in British Columbia they think first of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside or the infamous Highway of Tears.

That list includes four unsolved cases involving women of aboriginal descent who went missing directly from Fort St. John and have never been found. They are: Ramona Jean Shular, 37, in 2003; Abigail Andrews, 28, in 2010; Shirley Cletheroe, 45, in 2006; Stacey Rogers, a teenager who disappeared in the mid-1980s. There is also the suspicious death of Pamela Napoleon, 42, whose remains were found in a burnt-out cabin about a month after she was last seen in Blueberry River First Nation, about an hour north along the Alaska Highway.

There are other names of women or girls the local indigenous community counts as missing or having died violently, who were connected to Fort St. John or one of the nearby reserves at some point in their lives.

Connie Greyeyes, 44, who organizes the vigils and is connected in some way to many of the women on the list — including Rogers, who one day just stopped showing up at the pool hall they frequented together when they were both teenagers — says many families have felt the RCMP did not take their investigations seriously.

“Over and over again, that’s all we hear,” said Greyeyes. “Stories of families who were told they had to wait a certain amount of time, who were told, ‘She’ll be back. She took off. She was drinking. She was partying. You know how she is.’ The list is endless of excuses as to why they didn’t want to go and look for this person, right now.”

The RCMP did not make anyone from the Fort St. John detachment available for an interview, but Cpl. Dave Tyreman, a spokesman based in Prince George, said he could not comment on any of the unsolved cases — or concerns raised by families — except to say the investigations are still considered active and are routinely reviewed as new information or technological advances become available.

There is a perception in the community that Fort St. John is a training ground for Mounties at the beginning of their careers, a concern that was raised in a 2011 report by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

Tyreman, who also declined an interview but provided written responses to a list of questions from the Star, acknowledged “many” of the 60 police officers working out of the Fort St. John detachment come straight from training at the RCMP’s “Depot” Division in Regina, but noted “there is a wide range of experience to help mentor and train new officers.”

The circumstances surrounding each violent death and disappearance is as unique as the women involved. But when it comes to violence against women in Fort St. John in general, be it from strangers or spouses, there has been some local research looking at whether the nature of the extraction industry — with its high-paying jobs, transient workforce, isolating shift work, culture of hypermasculinity and boom-and-bust cycles — plays a role.

“Many of the social strains created by the regional resource economy, such as the shortage of affordable housing and the large wage gap between women and men, are among the established risk factors for violence against women and girls,” Amnesty International, which has been investigating violence against indigenous women in Fort St. John for a report due later this year, wrote in an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier Christy Clark last year outlining its concerns with the Site C dam.

The Peace Project, a three-year initiative funded by Status of Women Canada to end violence against women in Fort St. John, conducted local research on possible contributing factors. These included income disparity between men and women, an increase in substance abuse, the high cost of living, a lack of affordable housing and, perhaps most importantly, social services that are forced to provide for a much bigger population than might be officially recognized by their sources of funding.

“When you get an influx of money, you get the underside that comes with it as well,” said Lane, from the Fort St. John Women’s Resource Society, who often deals directly with homeless people, substance abuse and sex workers in the city, which she said has included young women forced into prostitution to pay for rent, or drug debts.

“It’s a small town, but big things happen here,” she said.

Adrienne Greyeyes, 27, said she has seen it growing up in the community, too.

“It was normal for 24-year-old oil workers to be at high school parties, essentially going after young girls,” she said.

“I feel that Fort St. John, because of the work, attracted that sort of lifestyle. . . You’re giving a lot of young people who have limited life experience such large amounts of money for doing this work and they end up wanting to party and have fun, but it’s our young women who are the ones vulnerable to it,” she said.

Ashley Watson, 25, said she experienced sexual harassment and racism while working in construction over the past few months, which included watching guys pinning up images of near-naked women in the lunch room, or hearing co-workers start singing “One little, two little, three little Indians” when they passed by her and two other female indigenous co-workers.

“I’d come home from work and I’d be crying,” said Watson.

Tracy Porteous, executive director of Ending Violence Association of B.C. (EVA BC), said companies are getting better at responding to impacts on the community, but her organization is calling for gender-based analysis, including a safety impact assessment, to be built into the environmental assessment process required for project approvals.

“I don’t think anybody is specifically hiving off the impacts on women and unless we specifically look at that, we believe that it is not going to get addressed,” she said.

The economy has shifted with the downturn in the oil and gas sector, in particular, but with the Site C dam promising to bring 10,000 new jobs to the area, people who cannot find work elsewhere in Canada, including Alberta, are making their way up — without always having the necessary skills and training to get a job, or a place to stay.

Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman said the municipality has reached an agreement in principle with B.C. Hydro on community measures to help mitigate the impact of the project, which includes funding for front-line services.

“We told them that our social fabric would be stretched,” she said.

David Conway, a B.C. Hydro spokesman for the Site C dam project, declined an interview, but emailed a statement that said these community measures included building a camp for workers that is self-sufficient and includes an on-site health clinic, as well as 50 new rental housing units in the city — 10 more than are needed for workers — to help relieve the shortage.

PAMELA NAPOLEON, 42

Sherry Dominic wishes she could have had the strength to go take a closer look at her family cabin, destroyed by fire, when the police were there with a dog that summer day two years ago.

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Sherry Dominic says official search teams were only out for a day and a half looking for her best friend Pamela Napoleon, who went missing from a reserve near Fort St. John.

“To this day, I think: What if I would have went closer to the cabin? I keep that in my mind, you know, what if?” Dominic said in the kitchen of her home on Blueberry River First Nation, a reserve about an hour north along the Alaska Highway from Fort St. John.

She was too emotional about the fire that day — too many memories of her late brother associated with that cabin she had been so sorry to lose in an unexpected fire earlier that month — so she stood some distance away, smoking a cigarette, while the dog sniffed around.

The dog did not find the human remains found on the bed a few weeks later.

They belonged to Pamela Napoleon, 42, a childhood friend who had once lived a hard life, hitchhiking from one couch to another around B.C. and Alberta, before finally getting her own home back on the Blueberry reserve.

 Pamela Napoleon, 42. FACEBOOK

Pamela Napoleon, 42. FACEBOOK

“Sometimes we don’t know where you are and it would be nice if you could keep in contact with us, because one of these days we are going to be going around looking for you,” Dominic recalled a mutual friend telling Napoleon during those wandering years.

That was then, though, before Napoleon got her house in the community, where she would put her culinary school talents to use cooking up meals for her friends and her adult sons, who lived nearby.

“She just came home and stayed home. She stayed here because she had a place to call home. It was her own little cabin. She would go to Fort St. John to do her shopping or whatever, but she would always come home,” says Dominic, a band councillor.

That is why Dominic knew something was wrong when she had not heard from her friend in a while after receiving a final text message from her on July 8, 2014, when she was planning to head up to a ranch the band owns in Pink Mountain, about 180 kilometres away, to visit her boyfriend at the time.

“She never made it up there,” said Dominic.

Her family reported her missing to the Fort St. John RCMP, but then Dominic was thrust into the role of amateur detective, organizing volunteer search parties and feeling like she had to pressure the RCMP into taking a look at potential pieces of evidence.

There was the camouflage cap Napoleon had been known to wear that an elder from the community found lying in the ditch on the passenger side of a vehicle that had been abandoned on the side of the road.

There was the surveillance video from a gas station along the highway where she was sure Napoleon would have had to stop, but the owner was away and the RCMP said they could not access the footage — until it was too late.

There were the trips into Fort St. John, to put up missing person posters and to ask the street people with whom Napoleon had been friendly whether they had seen her around.

There was the trip up to the burnt cabin, where the police found nothing, but then a close relative of Napoleon found the bones on Aug. 4, which police were able to identify. But they were unable to determine the cause of death from her bones.

Throughout it all, there was Dominic, other friends and family having to insist to the police that yes, while Napoleon used to travel around a lot, she did not do so anymore.

The RCMP news release issued at the time of her disappearance noted this fact.

“They also advised that this is very out of character for Pamela not to be in contact with them for this long,” said the release, but then added another detail: “She is known to travel to Vancouver, Abbotsford, Prince George, Grande Prairie and Pink Mountain to visit with family and friends.”

***

SHIRLEY CLETHEROE, 45

Jody Ryan, 32, remembers reaching the height of happiness a decade ago.

Jody Ryan, the daughter of Shirley Cletheroe who went missing in 2006, says police are "waiting for someone to jump out in front of them and confess."

Jody Ryan, the daughter of Shirley Cletheroe who went missing in 2006, says police are “waiting for someone to jump out in front of them and confess.”

She had recently given birth to the first of her three young sons, she was in a loving and strong, stable relationship with the man who is now her husband and her close-knit family — especially her mother, Shirley Cletheroe — was there to enjoy it with her.

“Life was good. I remember being so happy and it was perfect. It was the cherry on top,” said Ryan, a bubbly but no-nonsense woman with an easy laugh — much like her mother, she admitted — in the dining room of her home in Fort St. John, B.C.

Cletheroe, 45, was the type of mother who would call her daughter several times a day, sometimes just to let her know her favourite program was on the television.

Ryan remembers the last telephone conversation, on June 10, 2006, when she put her newborn up to the phone and laughed as he looked around to see where the voice of his doting grandmother was coming from.

“Nothing was terrible, until it all happened,” said Ryan, who remembers it sinking in slowly over the course of a few days, that this was it.

They were going to be that family now — that family missing a loved one.

What exactly happened remains unclear.

Cletheroe, who raised five children, was staying with her sister for some time after having gotten into an argument with her husband, which Ryan believes was nothing serious.

The night of that last phone call with her daughter, Cletheroe headed to a house party across the street from where her sister lived, leaving her truck in the driveway.

She was never seen or heard from again.

RICHARD LAUTENS Jody Ryan's mother, Shirley Cletheroe, went missing without a trace in 2006. Ryan's home is filled with photos of her mother with her young family.

Jody Ryan’s mother, Shirley Cletheroe, went missing without a trace in 2006. Ryan’s home is filled with photos of her mother with her young family. RICHARD LAUTENS

Ryan is frustrated by the pace of the RCMP investigation, which in her experience has involved being contacted by one investigator after another over the years as each one starts from the beginning again after having been transferred the file.

“Oh, so you want me to tell you the same story, over again?” said Ryan, who said she was also annoyed by some of the stereotypes that seemed to guide the line of questioning.

“Every time the investigation was passed on: ‘Oh does your mom drink? How often does she drink? Was she drinking that night?’ Look, dude — it doesn’t matter if she was drinking. Find her!” said Ryan.

“It just gets frustrating. I don’t want to sound like I am against the RCMP or anything, but they are just not doing their job,” said Ryan.

***

RENE LYNN GUNNING, 19

Jo Gunning, 56, held his daughter, Rene Lynn, on the hospital bed as she mourned the loss of her prematurely born son and promised to turn her life around.

Rene Lynn Gunning's remains were found near Grande Prairie, Alta., in 2011.

Rene Lynn Gunning’s remains were found near Grande Prairie, Alta., in 2011.

“We had a real, close emotional bonding time then,” Gunning said of the conversation that followed a tense period in their relationship, when she had left home, pregnant for the second time, to be with a boyfriend that he did not like.

“She turned to me and said, ‘I know I’ve done a lot of bad things. . . I want to come home. I want to get my act together. I want to be a mother to (my son). I want to go back to school and get my education,’ ” Gunning recalled.

He told her she was welcome home any time and things were good for a short while, until one day, following a heated argument between her father and her boyfriend, she ran out the back door and started sleeping on couches again.

Sometime later, the 19-year-old hitchhiked to the West Edmonton Mall, where she spent the day of Feb. 18, 2005, before leaving to hitchhike back home to Fort St. John, B.C., again with 16-year-old Krystle Knott, who was from Dawson Creek, B.C.

Over the next five years, Gunning says he travelled to Edmonton at least four times, desperately hoping to find her somewhere on the streets, perhaps having gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd, or the sex trade, searching for her in the mall where she was last seen.

“Every time I would see somebody with long, black hair like hers, from behind, my heart would stop and I would pick up my pace and walk up, walk in front of this person to have a look. And it wasn’t her and my heart would drop to the bottom of my stomach again. I always kept my hopes up that I would find her,” Gunning said.

On May 21, 2011, campers found the skulls of both girls near Grande Prairie, Alta.

“It was the worst day of my life. I’d been dreading that day a long time. I was hoping it had never come, but it did. How I never went back to booze and drugs, I don’t know,” said Gunning.

The investigation is in the hands of the RCMP Project KARE task force, and while Gunning thinks they are doing the best they can, he believes they need more resources.

“They can only do so much with what they’ve got,” he said.

— Joanna Smith

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/04/03/fort-st-john-a-dangerous-place-for-our-women-indigenous-activist-says.html


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B.C. Northern Leaders Complain They Weren’t Invited To Highway Of Tears Gathering

The B.C. Transportation ministry has organized a meeting next week to discuss transit issues in northern B.C. in connection with missing and murdered women. But several high-profile community leaders say they haven't been invited. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The B.C. Transportation ministry has organized a meeting next week to discuss transit issues in northern B.C. in connection with missing and murdered women. But several high-profile community leaders say they haven’t been invited. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

CBC News

‘I do have my worries about this meeting,’ chief says

Several high profile community leaders who have decried the lack of transit in northern B.C. say they haven’t been invited to a long-awaited meeting next week in Smithers, where officials are slated to discuss the link between poor public transit and missing and murdered women.

For nearly a decade, families of missing and murdered women have called for cheap, safe public transit along the Highway of Tears.

B.C.’s ministry of transportation has organized a symposium in Smithers to talk about transit in the north. The ministry has invited several government managers in the region and staff from area First Nations groups. However, many mayors, MLAs, elected chiefs, and families of the missing women have not been invited.

And those on the guest list have been asked to make their own travel arrangements to the Smithers meeting.

“I do have my worries about this meeting,” said Carrier Sekanni Tribal Chief Terry Teegee, whose cousin, Ramona Wilson, was murdered on Highway 16. He was not invited.

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice (NDP) wasn’t invited either, but she wants to be there.

Leadership needed on northern transit, MLA says

Rice said Transportation Minister Todd Stone appears to have changed his mind on whether better transit is needed in the north.

“I’m looking for the MoT (Ministry of Transportation) to provide some leadership,” Rice said. “He (Stone) said for the last few years that basically shuttle services or public transit was not practical and he said communities didn’t want it. It’s interesting he now has a change of heart. It’s gone from not feasible to something he’s exploring.

“But I’m not holding my breath,” Rice added.

Mary Teegee of Carrier-Sekanni Family Services said she’s trying to be optimistic and view the meeting as a positive step from the province.

“I’m hoping there’s going to be commitment from government to do something rather than have another meeting.”

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/highway-of-tears-transportation-1.3326246

Documents On Highway Of Tears Open Old Wounds As Missing-Women Inquiry Looms

cpt502308617_high

The Yellowhead, Highway 16, near Prince George, B.C., is pictured on October 8, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The Canadian Press

VICTORIA – The small British Columbia Cheslatta Carrier Nation has a decades-long anguished relationship with Highway 16, or the so-called Highway of Tears.

Five people from the community of less than 350 near Burns Lake in central B.C. have disappeared along the route, including an entire family of four, says Chief Corrina Leween.

At least 18 women went missing or were murdered along Highway 16 and the adjacent Highways 97 and 5 since the 1970s. Most cases remain unsolved, though investigators don’t believe a single killer is responsible.

The sorrow deepened recently with a damning report over deleted Transportation Ministry emails about the highway and its missing.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone has insisted that locals don’t want a bus service, but recently released documents highlight the concerns of local officials and contradict the minister.

The controversy could be swept up in a call by the federal Liberal government for an inquiry into Canada’s murdered and missing women. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised the inquiry during the election campaign.

“I would expect that because a number of women have gone missing, and or have been known to have been murdered along Highway 16, that Highway 16 will figure in the national inquiry,” said Stone. “Our government has been on the record for quite some time in supporting a national inquiry.”

B.C.’s Attorney General Suzanne Anton said she also expects an inquiry would focus on the highway.

“I’m not trying to second-guess the federal inquiry, but there probably will be an aspect about the north all across the country,” she said.

An RCMP report last year stated nearly 1,200 aboriginal women were murdered or went missing between 1980 and 2012.

Highway 16 stretches more than 700 kilometres between Prince George and Prince Rupert. It follows rivers and mountains and connects remote communities. Its route is dark, lonely and blood stained.

“Within (our) community, we have had an entire family that went missing, the Jack family,” said Leween. “One of our elders is missing.”

Casimel Jack, 70, was last seen a decade ago, walking along a road that connects to Highway 16 south of Burns Lake. He was hunting and carrying a rifle when he disappeared Sept. 18, 2005.

Ronald Jack, his wife, Doreen, and their two sons, Russell, 9, and Ryan, 4, vanished Aug. 1, 1989. The last anybody heard from the family was when Ronald called a family member from a Prince George pub to say he and his wife found jobs.

“They just simply disappeared. Mom, dad and the two boys,” Leween said.

She said successive B.C. governments have refused to move on First Nations’ requests to provide a regional transportation network. Leween described government consultations attempts as sophisticated stalling tactics.

“I, as a leader, don’t feel the government is doing enough to addresses the issue,” she said.

Leween rejected Stone’s claim that leaders across the north agree a large-scale transit service won’t work.

“It’s absolutely untrue,” she said. “The bus is desperately needed in our area. I go to Prince George quite often to meetings and I see the young women hitchhiking on that highway. It’s needed.”

Stone said the government is looking to develop shorter transportation connections between communities, but a region-wide transportation service is not workable.

“It’s difficult for many folks to comprehend, myself included, how a scheduled shuttle bus service across an 800 kilometre stretch of highway that’s very sparsely populated would meet the needs of people who live along the highway.”

Stone said his ministry is holding a transportation symposium in Smithers Nov. 24 to discuss practical, affordable and sustainable solutions for communities along Highway 16.

Opposition New Democrat Jennifer Rice, whose North Coast riding includes a section of Highway 16, said she has not been invited to the symposium but plans to attend.

“I’ve been here (in Victoria) two years, and I’ve been asking this question numerous times around improving the transportation and safety along Highway 16, and I’ve been shrugged off and told basically to move on and get a new idea,” she said.

Rice said two years ago when she accidentally locked herself out of her car on a stretch of the highway she felt the chill of being alone in the middle of nowhere.

“I was in a pull out, and I had no cell service and I was the only one there,” she said.

“I had just come back from Victoria and I had been asking questions about the Highway of Tears. Then this happened to me. I felt extremely vulnerable.”

Source: https://shar.es/15dh6G

Highway Of Tears Email Deletion Referred To RCMP By B.C. Privacy Watchdog

These images are of 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. (Individual photos from Highwayoftears.ca)

These images are of 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. (Individual photos from Highwayoftears.ca)

CBC News

Transportation ministry staffer facing potential perjury charges for lying under oath

Transportation ministry staffer George Gretes could be facing charges after a report by B.C. Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham that reveals he lied under oath when he denied that he intentionally deleted Highway of Tears emails and records.

Denham has referred the matter to the RCMP, and Gretes has resigned.

The report, titled Access Denied, also found that Michele Cadario, deputy chief of staff in the premier’s office, routinely contravened freedom of information laws by bulk deleting emails on a daily basis. Denham’s investigation cited Cadario as having no email records, despite working in the premier’s office for two years.

“That’s hard to get your head around,” said NDP Leader John Horgan in reaction to the report. “You’re the second most powerful person in the premier’s office and you don’t use email?”

The Ministry of Advanced Education was also found to be in contravention of freedom of information laws due to “a negligent search for the records by the chief of staff.”

Denham’s says her report points to practices that threaten the integrity of access to information in B.C.

“It is difficult to overstate the seriousness of the problems that my office discovered in the course of this investigation,” she wrote. “It is important that the government take immediate action to restore public confidence in the access to information process.”

Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services Minister Amrik Virk said Denham’s report “made a number of important findings” and announced that the government will hire former B.C. privacy commissioner David Loukidelis to advise it on how to address the recommendations.

But Horgan said Virk should also resign because of freedom of information concerns that came to light when Virk was minister of advanced education.

“It’s almost ludicrous to have him responsible for freedom of information now when he was circumventing it,” said Horgan. “He was the minister for advanced education and had to leave the portfolio around freedom of information issues.”

Whistleblower

Denham’s investigation began when her office was approached by Tim Duncan, a former executive assistant to B.C.’s minister of transportation and highways.

Elizabeth Denham

B.C. Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has referred to the RCMP her findings about the intentional deleting of emails. (CBC)

He claimed to be bothered by an incident in relation to a request for email records about the so-called Highway of Tears, a notorious stretch of highway along which a number of women have been murdered or gone missing.

Duncan claimed Gretes was unhappy to see he had applicable email records on his computer and ordered him to “triple delete” them. When he hesitated, Duncan claimed Gretes grabbed his keyboard and mouse away from him and deleted them himself.

Duncan did not complain at the time and went on to work for the Liberal caucus. He was let go from that job in March, but after returning to Alberta, decided to speak out.

“He said he sympathized with the families of the murdered and missing victims on the highway because his own father had been murdered in a domestic incident in 2010,” Denham writes.

‘Triple deleting’

According to the report, “triple deleting” means first moving an email to the computer system’s “deleted” folder, expunging the email from the folder itself and then manually overriding a backup that allows the system to recover deleted items for up to 14 days.

Denham says Gretes first flatly denied the accusations, but in a second interview, after being presented with forensic evidence that showed items had been triple deleted, “Gretes admitted that he did not tell the truth in his original testimony and that he did triple delete emails.”

“I cannot overstate the gravity with which I view the false testimony given during this investigation by George Gretes,” Denham says in the report.

Systematic deletion

Denham also expressed disbelief at the results of an investigation into allegations that emails were being systematically deleted in the office of the premier.

The issue centres around the retention of so-called non-transitory records. According to the report, those include “decision records, instructions and advice, as well as documentation of a policy matter or how a case was managed.”

Transitory records are “convenience copies, unnecessary duplicates and working materials and drafts once the finished record has been produced.”

But according to the report, the deputy chief of staff in the premier’s office “has not personally retained a single email she has ever sent from her government email address.”

Cadario claimed “very few” of the emails she sends are non-transitory because she doesn’t create government policy or give policy advice. But Denham notes that Cadario’s job description included providing “strategic advice to the chief of staff, premier and executive council to advance government’s policy and legislative objectives.”

Denham recommended mandatory records-management training for all employees as well as the legislation of independent oversight of information management requirements. She also says the government needs to introduce sanctions when those requirements are not met.

DOC

[CLICK TO OPEN]

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/highway-of-tears-email-deletion-referred-to-rcmp-by-b-c-privacy-watchdog-1.3284029

Fighting For Answers About Missing And Murdered Canadian Women

JESSICA BROUSSEAU/The Mid-North Monitor Demonstrators stand united in the middle of Highways 6 and 17 during the five minute traffic slow down.

JESSICA BROUSSEAU/The Mid-North Monitor Demonstrators stand united in the middle of Highways 6 and 17 during the five minute traffic slow down.

By Jessica Brousseau / Mid-North Monitor, August 25, 2015

The numbers are growing as the fight for a national inquiry into missing and murdered women continues.

A demonstration was held on Aug. 18 with the familiar voices for the United Urban Warrior Society (UUWS) being joined by new supporters who refuse to take the federal government’s “no” for an answer.

Gathering at Giant Tiger, the group walked down the road before coming to a stand at the junction of highways 6 and 17.

Isadore Pangowish, leader of the UUWS Manitoulin-Sudbury chapter, has organized demonstrations and rallies such as the one held on a humid Tuesday morning.

“Our numbers have grown over the two years,” Pangowish said. “The more we protest maybe, just maybe, we will get our national inquiry.”

A national inquiry has been demanded of the federal government.

“The more and more that we come out, maybe Stephen Harper and Bernard Valcourt will open their eyes.”

While online comments are a mix of support for the cause there is the presence of frustration at the highway being shut down momentarily. But the negativity will not deter the UUWS in any future events.

Pangowish said they were closing the highway a few minutes at a time, but there may come a day when it might be shut down longer.

“This is a government highway. We do not own this highway. It is not a First Nation highway.”

Just like the highway, the inquiry into the growing number of missing and murdered women isn’t a First Nation issue.

“This is for everyone, it doesn’t matter their race.”

His statement was echoed throughout the demonstration as Deputy Grand Council Chief Glen Hare made the same remarks during one of the shutdown periods.

“This is for all women!” Hare exclaimed while pointing to the surrounding communities. “Not just Anishnabek (women), but the women in this community, and those communities out there.”

He called for community members to “stand with us.”

Hare said the demonstration is a political matter and they want leaders to “take hold” of the issue of missing and murdered women, starting with the inquiry.

“Politicians questioning what good would an inquiry be? For me, I think the role of the court system would be to strengthen up.”

Hare was referring to when a woman gets a restraining order against an individual, but the laws do not necessarily protect them.

“A restraining order, I truly believe, gives that individual more (power),” he said. “It’s a challenge. And it happens.”

He said it is sad for family members to grieve over the death of their loved one while the murderer is getting bail.

“That’s the hurting part.”

“It’s extremely important that the awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women, and all women is brought to the forefront,” said Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing NDP incumbant candidate Carol Hughes, who was at the demonstration. “We need to have a comprehensive inquiry.”

Hughes said the national inquiry would help give closure to families. She also mentioned the Truth and Reconciliation report, which also supported the inquiry.

SheShegwaning First Nation Chief Joe Endanawas told the demonstrators that they are supported and be proud of who they are.

“It’s good that you’re here, support the cause,” he said.

Endanawas had a message for the women at the rally, saying they do not deserve to be talked down to or put down.

“We are human beings,” he said.

Still no answers

The hurt remains with family members, years after the death of a loved one.

It’s been two years since Michelle Atkinson’s daughter Cheyenne Fox was found dead in Toronto.

Fox came from the Loon Clan at the Wikwemikong Unceded First Nation on Manitoulin Island and was 20 years old when she fell from the 24th-floor balcony.

The Toronto police called the incident suicide. But her mother says it was murder.

How she was informed of her daughter’s death left Atkinson feeling like it was “just another dead Indian” to the people who told her the life-changing news.

“That’s how I feel,” she said between sobs. “I am angry because nothing has been done to this day.”

Atkinson and family friend Jackie Bowerman describes Fox as a very funny, caring mother.

“She was lively and energetic,” said Bowerman.

“She had her struggles, but she was coming home,” said her mother.

“They had people who really loved them,” she said between tears. “People who still love them.”

“I lost a cousin way back in the 1950s, she disappeared and we never heard from her,” said Endanawas. “We still don’t know where she is or how she died. She must have died…”

The missing and the

murdered

Kassandra Boulduc, 22, of Elliot Lake, was found off the shores of Lake Ontario in 2013.

Tina Fontaine, 15, of Sagkeeng First Nation was found murdered in Red River Manitoba in 2014.

Meagan Pilon from Sudbury disappeared at age 15 in 2013. She has yet to be found.

These women are just a handful of Canadian women who have gone missing or have been discovered murdered in the past couple of years.

A report from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stated there have been more than 6,500 female homicides between 1980 and 2012.

http://www.midnorthmonitor.com/2015/08/25/fighting-for-answers-about-missing-and-murdered-canadian-women

 

Indigenous Activists Blockade Border For Inquiry Into Missing, Murdered Women

Blockade at Ontario and Manitoba border. Photo: Red Power Media

Vehicles were backed up for miles as activists blockaded the Ontario and Manitoba border. Photo: Red Power Media

By Red Power Media, Staff

Indigenous activists from Winnipeg had warned media that they planned to protest at the border with a blockade when the latest RCMP report was released.

Indigenous women continue to be most frequently killed by men they know, the RCMP said Friday as it released updated findings on missing and murdered indigenous women.

Another 32 Indigenous women have been murdered and 11 more have disappeared since the RCMP last reported on the issue.

Video: Group Blocks Motorists Who Refuse MMIW Flyer

In response activists set up a blockade and put a chokehold on the Trans-Canada Highway at the Ontario and Manitoba border. Then handed out 1,181 informational flyers ― the number of Indigenous women missing or murdered between 1980 and 2012 according to last year’s RCMP report.

They also informed the public of the violence taking place in their communities and the need for a national inquiry.

The Urban Warrior Alliance Blocks Semi Trucks at the Ontario and Manitoba border for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Red Power Media

An activist from the Urban Warrior Alliance blocks a semi truck at the Ontario and Manitoba border. Photo: Red Power Media.

“First Nations do not appreciate the way the RCMP is handling this. Not at all. We have no respect for it at all,” said one organizer.

“We want a national inquiry. We want an inquiry into what’s happening in our communities, what’s happening not just with our women, but all of our community.”

Many have long been calling for an inquiry.

However, the Harper government has refused saying it would rather focus on preventing these cases in the first place.

@Ward1

The protest was predominantly peaceful, minus some racist comments fueling the passion of the protesters.

Each time a driver didn’t accept a flyer, the group rallied in front of the vehicle, then shut down both lanes of the highway for 10 to 15 minutes not allowing anyone through until the flyer was taken.

Both the OPP and RCMP were at the border to manage the slow stream of vehicles.

The OPP reported that the protesters stayed on the highway until they had handed out all of their flyers.

Members from the Urban Warrior Alliance in Winnipeg who organized the protest ended it at about 4 pm.

Aboriginal Women Still Overrepresented Among Canada’s Missing And Murdered Women

Aboriginal women are most frequently killed by someone they know, be it their spouse or another family member, says the RCMP in a new report made public Friday. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Aboriginal women are most frequently killed by someone they know, be it their spouse or another family member, says the RCMP in a new report made public Friday. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

CBC News

32 aboriginal women have been slain and 11 more have disappeared since 2013, RCMP says

Aboriginal women continue to be overrepresented among Canada’s missing and murdered women, says the RCMP in a new report to update Canadians on the force’s efforts to address unresolved cases of missing and murdered native women.

Between May 2014 when last year’s report was published and April 2015, 11 more aboriginal women disappeared in regions over which the RCMP has jurisdiction.

Unlike in the previous report, this update did not take into account missing or murdered aboriginal woman from cities and municipalities with their own police forces, meaning the total number would be higher than the figure in the report.

It also found that within RCMP jurisdictions, 32 aboriginal women were killed in 2013 and 2014. The Mounties said this was “consistent with levels of the past decade.”

The RCMP said the new report confirms what was found in 2014, mainly that aboriginal women are most frequently killed by someone they know, be it their spouse or a member of their community.

“Our 2015 update confirms the unmistakable connection between homicide and family violence, and that aboriginal women continue to be over-represented among Canada’s missing and murdered women,” said RCMP Deputy Commissioner Janice Armstrong.

Other key findings include:

  • As of April 2015, 174 aboriginal women across all police jurisdictions remain missing, 111 of these under suspicious circumstances.
  • A reduction of 9.3 per cent in unsolved cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women reported in the 2014 overview, from 225 to 204 across all police jurisdictions.
  • In 2013 and 2014, 81 per cent of murders of aboriginal women have been solved in RCMP jurisdictions.
  • Within RCMP jurisdictions, offenders were known to their victims in 100 per cent of solved homicide cases of aboriginal women since 2013.
  • Offenders were known to their victims in 93 per cent of solved homicide cases of non-aboriginal women in RCMP jurisdictions in 2013 and 2014.

Urgent call to action

The Assembly of First Nations said today’s findings demand an “urgent call” for action.

“The numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women cannot remain a mere statistic,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde in a written statement.

“There is a significant and tragic overrepresentation of indigenous women among the missing and murdered in this country.”

Reacting to the RCMP update on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, Liberal aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett called for an inquiry into the issue, saying that “crime prevention alone cannot stop the problem.”

NDP aboriginal affairs critic Niki Ashton also called for an inquiry, saying “this is a Canadian issue, not an indigenous issue.”

In a statement posted on her website, Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women Kellie Leitch wrote that “we don’t need another study on top of the same 40 studies that have already been done; we need police to catch those responsible and ensure they’re punished.”

Today’s release follows a report last year that found more than 1,000 cases of murdered and missing indigenous women between 1980 and 2012.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/aboriginal-women-still-overrepresented-among-canada-s-missing-and-murdered-women-1.3120272

Emails Relating To B.C.’s Highway Of Tears Allegedly Deleted

These images are of 18 women and girls whose deaths and disappearances are part of the RCMP's investigation of the Highway of Tears in British Columbia. (Individual photos from Highwayoftears.ca)

These images are of 18 women and girls whose deaths and disappearances are part of the RCMP’s investigation of the Highway of Tears in British Columbia. (Individual photos from Highwayoftears.ca)

CBC News

‘Whatever it takes to win,’ Liberal staffer allegedly said after deleting emails in FOI request

A former staffer at the B.C. Ministry of Transportation alleges that more than a dozen emails were deleted in November 2014 following a freedom of information request relating to the Highway of Tears, a stretch of road notorious for cases of missing and murdered women.

The NDP has made public a letter written by former executive assistant Tim Duncan to Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham. In the letter, Duncan says that when he protested an instruction to delete the emails, a ministerial assistant took hold of his keyboard and did it himself.

“When I hesitated, he took away my keyboard, deleted the emails and returned the keyboard, stating, ‘It’s done. Now you don’t have to worry about it anymore,'” Duncan wrote in the letter.

When his concerns continued to be dismissed, Duncan writes, he was told, “It’s like The West Wing. You do whatever it takes to win.”

Duncan writes that he does not believe the incident was unusual.

“I want to stress that this is not an isolated incident. It is my belief that the abuse of the freedom of information process is widespread and most likely systemic within the [Premier Christy] Clark government. I would ask that you please look into this further.”

As to the content of the deleted emails, Duncan says that he does not recall details, as many were messages he was cc’d on and had never read.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone told CBC News that he knew nothing of the allegations made by his former staffer until they were raised in Thursday’s question period.

‘Are there no records?’

Jennifer Rice, the NDP member of the legislature for the North Coast, spoke to CBC’s Daybreak North in February about a freedom of information request she made last November while looking for information surrounding meetings that were supposed to have taken place about Highway 16 (the Highway of Tears)

Rice had specifically requested “records related to meetings held by the ministry on this issue. The time frame for my request is May 15, 2014, to November 19, 2014.”

The government, she said, asked for an extension on the request, twice, in order to transcribe written notes.

When the government eventually responded in November, Rice was told, “No records were located in response to your request. Your file is now closed.”

“Are there records that have been hidden?” Rice asked. “Or are there no records?”

‘A symptom of sick government’

The privacy commissioner responded Thursday with a statement confirming the receipt of Duncan’s letter.

“My office has been in touch with the individual who raised these allegations, and I am now determining next steps in an investigation,” Denham’s statement reads.

John Horgan, leader of the B.C. NDP says the accusations are “shocking,” and a “symptom of sick government.”

“The letter says it all about how Christy Clark’s government approaches its responsibilities to the people of B.C.,” Horgan said in a statement, “‘You do whatever it takes to win.’ Even when it involves missing and murdered women.”

RCMP say the route along Highway 16 that winds between Prince George and Prince Rupert is where at least 18 women have gone missing or been murdered since 1969. Seventeen of those cases remain unsolved.

Read the full letter

Letter

With files from Richard Zussman

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/emails-relating-to-b-c-s-highway-of-tears-allegedly-deleted-1.3091592