Ramona Wilson was 16 years old when she was last seen on the way to a friend’s house in Smithers, BC, on June 11, 1994. Like so many others from the small community in northern B.C., she had to travel along Highway 16 which later became known as the Highway of Tears. Two days later, after Ramona disappeared, a missing persons investigation was launched. Her body was found in a wooded area west of the Smithers airport nearly a year later. Her murder remains unsolved. (CBC, 2016)
There are approximately 160 recorded cases of mostly Indigenous missing and murdered women and girls in British Columbia. Many of these women and girls have been reported missing or murdered along the 724 kilometer length of Highway 16 between Prince Rupert and Prince George. As a result, this area, and Highway 16 in particular, are commonly known by its residents as “The Highway of Tears”, in reference to the number of women and girls who have gone missing or have been murdered along this stretch of road.
The RCMP have acknowledged that 18 girls and women have gone missing or been murdered along the stretch of highway between Prince George and Prince Rupert and nearby routes since 1969. Indigenous leaders say that number is closer to 50. On Sept. 1, 2016, the federal government launched a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The inquiry came in the wake of emotional pleas from relatives and community members, news stories and police reports that underscored what is now recognized as the decades-long vulnerability and victimization of Indigenous women in Canada.
The map shown here displays 17 disappearances of women and girls along Hwy 16 from 1969-2011. It is hoped that through the mapping of these locations, it not only brings more public awareness to these many cases, but also adds a personal face and story to each of these women. These are not just names in a database. These women and girls were mothers, daughters, sisters, and aunts. They were part of a vibrant community of friends and family that cared about them deeply.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments about the maps.