It’s been given the name Highway of Tears, a term many might know but not all understand.
The term refers to a 724 kilometre stretch of highway in northern BC where more than 40 women have been reported missing, a majority of them aboriginal. A film director from Los Angeles, Matthew Smiley, learned of the topic after hearing the tragic story of Nicole Hoar’s disappearance, a young tree planter who went missing near Prince George. This led him to do a full documentary that was showcased at the Grand Reo Theatre in Vanderhoof Saturday, March, 21. Smiley plans to show the movie again in upcoming weeks for surrounding areas including Burns Lake and Fort St. James.
The film profiles 18 cases including Maddison Scott of Vanderhoof who remains missing, and Loren Leslie, 15, of Fort Fraser who was found dead in 2010.
Carrier Sekani Tribal Chief Terry Teegee was also featured in the film and spoke to the topic at the Vanderhoof screening. His seriousness was evident when talking about his cousin being one of the missing women.
“My cousin went missing but I can’t even imagine what it would feel like if it was my daughter and how Maddy Scott’s family must feel. This film is important to keep these stories in peoples minds. The more people talk about it the more chance we have of finding these women,” Chief Teegee said.
Hitchhiking was highlighted in the film as one of the major culprits of missing women. Chief Teegee mentioned that Carrier Sekani Family Services is in the midst of advocating to bring more safe transportation to the area.
“I also want to mention all the other people who have gone missing, men, women and families. In 1989 the Jack family went missing, parents and two young boys, and that’s still an unsolved case,” he said.
The movie has been shown all over Canada and Smiley plans to debut it in the United States, Europe and Australia.
During the QandA period after the Vanderhoof screening, one community member brought up appropriation of funds and asked what the point of taking the film around the world was.
Teegee said the public inquiry would help make recommendations and open up opportunity to get rid of misunderstandings.
“The purpose of this film is to raise the difficult questions. We can’t just sit around and say everything is ok. Especially with hitchhiking season here we need to bump up the awareness,” Teegee said.
Doug Leslie, Loren Leslie’s father, started the Loren Donn Leslie Foundation (LDLF) and does a variety of scholarships and awareness work. All proceeds from the Vanderhoof screening went to the foundation.
For more information on Highway of Tears documentary visit www.highwayoftearsfilm.com or for information on the LDLF visit www.ldlfoundation.com.