Family members of women missing or murdered along the Highway of Tears called on Missing Women Commission of Inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal for a separate inquiry.
Oppal was in Prince George Friday for an informal, pre-inquiry public forum. Family members and aboriginal leaders said disappearances and murders of women in the North took place under very different circumstances than the women missing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and convicted serial killer Robert Pickton’s victims.
Brenda Wilson said the murder of her sister, Ramona Wilson, in 1994 should be grouped with Pickton’s victims.
“The majority of the girls that went missing on the Highway of Tears are, in fact, girls — not grown women,” Wilson said. “They have answers. They have a killer behind bars. We have no answers in these cases.”
Ramona was 16-years-old when she went missing from Smithers on June 11, 1994. She told her mother she was going to a friend’s house in Smithers, then tried to find a ride to a nearby reservation to visit friends there, Wilson said.
When Ramona didn’t come home, her family started looking for her at all her friends’ homes, school and her part-time jobs.
“We contacted the police and they weren’t very helpful at that time,” Wilson said.
“Why did they not send out an amber alert? Why did they not start an investigation right away? Our human rights have been violated.”
Ramona’s body was found 10 months later near the Smithers Airport.
Rural aboriginal communities lack the community resources and infrastructure of major centres like Vancouver, she added.
“We do not have the required transportation to keep our community members safe. Please come and see our communities, see what we have to live with,” Wilson said.
“Then you’ll understand why there are so many girls missing.”
A tearful Doug Leslie, father of 15-year-old Loren Donn Leslie who was murdered near Vanderhoof in November, said there are families along Highway 16 more unfortunate than his.
“I am luckier than the ones whose loved ones are missing,” Leslie said.
“We got our daughter back, as hard as it is, we got our daughter back.”
Sam Moodie said there needs to be more resources for the families of victims in the north. The murder of his sister, Gloria Moodie, 26, in Williams Lake in October, 1969 destroyed his family.
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