‘Highway of Tears’: The Unsolved Murders of Indigenous Women in Canada – SPIEGEL ONLINE

See on Scoop.itNWT News

Highway 16 in Canada has become known as the “Highway of Tears” because dozens of women have disappeared along its route. Many of them have been killed, most of them First Nation indigenous peoples. The police have shown little interest in solving the crimes.

[excerpt]

Gladys was born 56 years ago on the reserve for the Gitxsan indigenous people in British Columbia, but she never gets homesick as she drives along Highway 16, the “Highway of Tears.”

“There are too many ghosts,” she says.

The ghosts are the women who have been disappearing without a trace along the 700-kilometer-long (435-mile-long) stretch of highway. Official police statistics list 18 women in all, 17 of whom are First Nation, as much of the indigenous population in Canada is called. Amnesty International assumes, however, that there are considerably more. Not a single case has been solved.

Locked up By Day, Abused at Night

That doesn’t surprise Radek. It speaks to her own personal experience. The life of a native woman like her doesn’t count for much here in northern Canada, some 200 kilometers from the border with Alaska. To her, it’s clear what must have happened: The women were picked up on the stretch between the reserves, the gold mines and the logging camps, raped, killed and dumped along the side of the road.

We arrive in Prince Rupert, where the Highway of Tears reaches the Gulf of Alaska. Unemployed indigenous people hang around in dingy coffee shops. Almost all of the fish-processing plants that once employed many in the town have shut down. There was too much competition from Japan.

Radek is uncomfortable. She doesn’t like this place. When she was a small child, her foster father spent the summer fishing in the harbor. Radek spent her days locked below deck on the boat, until he came for her in the evening.

It was here, at the entrance to town on Highway 16, that her niece Tamara disappeared five years ago. She was 18 years old. A ghost.

[…]

‘It is Unbearable, How Our People Are Forced to Live’

On the route from Prince Rupert to Prince George we pass Moricetown, the reserve where Gladys grew up. Her mother still lives here in one of the prefabricated houses that one can pick up at any home improvement store. The whole reserve is filled with them. The muddy street that connects them is littered with garbage — TVs, wrecked cars and empty beer cans.

When Gladys’ sister Peggy opens the door, a musty smell drifts our way. Peggy, Gladys explains to us later, has spent two years in prison for assaulting a man who was trying to rape her. Her mother is sitting silently on a sofa filled with holes, gazing absent-mindedly. Her hair falls in oily strands from her head, and her blind eye peers eerily around the room.

“It is unbearable, how our people are forced to live,” Gladys says, when we turn back onto Highway 16 an hour later.

It is almost a miracle that she escaped this misery. Her parents were almost always drunk. When her younger brother starved to death, they were in a bar. Gladys was five then. That’s when she was taken away from her parents.

Her foster parents didn’t provide her with a childhood she would have wanted either. Her foster father started raping her when she was eight. When she was 13, she had the courage to report him to the reserve police. They shrugged their shoulders in response. After that, she packed her bags and ran away.Gladys could easily have become one of the missing on the Highway of Tears. But she survived, moved to Vancouver, and raised five children. Now she is working as a spokeswoman for an organization for “Missing and Murdered Women.” Her group estimates that there are 500 missing and murdered women in Canada.

“Someone has to give a voice to the many families who don’t know what happened to their loved ones,” she says. The worst, she says, is the feeling of being alone in your pain.

 

See on www.spiegel.de

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