(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C. – June 17, 2016) The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) is asking the Provincial Government to provide concrete details and a clear timeline for public transportation along Highway 16, which is known as the Highway of Tears due to the tragic murders and disappearances of mostly Indigenous women and girls hitchhiking along the route.
On June 15, the Province of BC made an announcement of $2 million in new provincial and federal funding for the now $5-million Highway 16 Transportation Action Plan, which was launched in December 2015. The 5 point Action Plan includes $2.4 million over 3 years for transit expansion which will be available on a cost-shared basis with local communities to extend or enhance BC Transit services to better connect communities.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of UBCIC, stated “It has been ten years since the Highway of Tears Symposium which initially advanced the demand for the immediate establishment of a public transit system to offer a ‘safe’ alternative to young Indigenous women and girls who are forced to engaged in the high-risk practice of hitchhiking along the remote highway. While we cautiously acknowledge the Province’s promise of public transit along the Highway of Tears, we want to ensure that it is collaboratively and transparently planned and appropriately funded. After a decade of stonewalling the issue of public transit on the Highway of Tears, it is no coincidence that the Province has changed their mind on the doorstep of the BC Liberal re-election campaign.”
The Province reports that a discussion document outlining initial options for the transit expansion services will be ready for review in early summer by the 16 northern communities that have signed MOUs with BC Transit, followed by a detailed service planning process. Grand Chief Phillip concluded, “We are extremely concerned that $800,000 per year for three years is not enough to provide sufficient and long-term public transportation along the Highway of Tears. We want to see a business plan from the BC Government which ensures there will be sufficient public transit buses at minimal cost to be accessible to those most at risk.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Phone: (604) 684-0231