VIDEO: Families walk Highway of Tears before MMIW hearing

‘I’m very proud of this moment right now because when Tamara went missing, nobody cared.’

Gladys Radek raised a fist in the air and wept as she reached the end of her 350-kilometre journey along British Columbia’s Highway of Tears.

The Indigenous grandmother finished her walk along the notorious stretch of Highway 16 for the seventh and final time on Monday. It is the same highway where her beloved niece Tamara Lynn Chipman disappeared.

Outside a community centre in Smithers, B.C., her voice shook as she spoke to those who had walked alongside her, including commissioners from the national inquiry into missing and murdered women.

“I want to thank you all for standing so proud and loud, to show our commissioners that we have love for our missing and murdered women,” she said through tears.

“I’m very proud of this moment right now because when Tamara went missing, nobody cared. When Tamara went missing, there were many others who were already missing, many others who had been murdered.”

Dozens of women have disappeared or been killed along the highway between Prince Rupert and Prince George in central B.C.

Radek and other family members and advocates left Prince Rupert on Thursday and arrived Monday in Smithers, where the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will hold hearings starting Tuesday.

READ MORE: Walking the Highway of Tears for a woman who went missing 12 years ago

READ MORE: Muddled inquiry new blow to families of missing women

The walkers were accompanied by vehicles and have covered sections of the route in a relay fashion, allowing them to complete the walk of hundreds of kilometres over the span of a few days.

During the final stretch through the town of Smithers, Radek, who is missing a leg, drove a car covered in photographs of women who have disappeared or been killed. She wept behind the wheel as passersby waved and honked their horns.

Inquiry commissioner Michele Audette joined the group three days ago, while Chief Commissioner Marion Buller joined on Monday. Commissioner Qajaq Robinson was supposed to attend the hearings but had to bow out due to a family emergency.

Audette said she walked to honour the resilience and strength of the families who will be speaking for the first time to the inquiry. The hearings will be powerful, she said.

“I feel it since I arrived, there’s a lot of emotion, lots of anxiety also or stress, because it’s the first time for them,” she said. “Just being there beside them and listening, maybe it’s helped.”

The inquiry has been plagued by controversy, including the resignation of commissioner Marilyn Poitras this summer and complaints from families about poor communications and delays.

Buller told a Senate committee last week that the inquiry’s work has been hampered by federal bureaucracy.

Rhonda Lee McIsaac, who lives in Haida Gwaii and has Ojibway heritage, participated in the walk for the first time and said it was a moving experience.

“I’m walking for everybody who cannot walk,” said McIsaac. “I have lost a loved one. I grew up in foster care and I was adopted out. This is part of my story.”

More than 40 people have signed up to speak at the Smithers hearings, which run through Thursday. They are the second hearings held by the inquiry after it visited Whitehorse in May.

The inquiry is set to visit nine communities this fall, including Edmonton, Winnipeg and Thunder Bay, Ont.

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Victoria BC Transit driver taken to hospital after assault

Driver attempted to stop an altercation between two people on the bus

Art takes a personal tone during the 110th anniversary of the Victoria Sketch Club

The 47th annual art show is taking place until March 24

CRD’s 2019 financial plan includes 23 per cent increase for capital projects

Housing, health care and wastewater projects included in 2019 plan

How a scrawny kid from Oak Bay bulked into one of rugby sevens’ best

Doing it for Dylan, Oak Bay’s Connor Braid at the top of his game

VIDEO: Restaurant robots are already in Canada

Robo Sushi in Toronto has waist-high robots that guide patrons to empty seats

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of March 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: When do you think the next major earthquake will hit Vancouver Island?

According to seismologists, Vancouver Island is overdue for a magnitude 7 earthquake.… Continue reading

Permit rejected to bring two cheetahs to B.C.

Earl Pfeifer owns two cheetahs, one of which escaped in December 2015

Real-life tsunami threat in Port Alberni prompts evacuation updates

UBC study says some people didn’t recognize the emergency signal

Care providers call for B.C. seniors’ watchdog to step down

The association also asks the province to conduct an audit and review of the mandate of her office

Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from B.C. roaster recalled due to botulism scare

“If you purchased N7 Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from Cherry Hill … do not drink it.”

Short list for new gnome home includes Parksville, Coombs

Five potential locations have been chosen by Howard’s owners who will decide Tuesday

B.C. man gets award for thwarting theft, sexual assault – all in 10 minutes

Karl Dey helped the VPD take down a violent sex offender

Most Read