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Coalition on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Demands Provincial Accountability for Deleted Emails regarding Highway of Tears

    October 27, 2015

    (Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C.- October 27, 2015) A Coalition on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls is extremely upset that the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner has found that Ministry of Transportation staff willfully deleted emails related to the Highway of Tears, a remote stretch of Highway 16 between Prince Rupert and Prince George, where many Indigenous women and girls have been murdered or disappeared.

    The provincial government has failed to take meaningful action to provide adequate and safe transportation along the Highway despite numerous clear recommendations to do so from agencies including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry, and the Highway of Tears Symposium.  BC’s failure to act in response to these recommendations puts the safety of Indigenous women and girls at risk and is in neglect of its duty to take every reasonable effort to ensure the safety of all women and girls.

    The Coalition is extremely troubled that, instead of working to improve safety for Indigenous women and girls along the Highway of Tears, Ministry of Transportation staff contravened their duties under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act by reading information requests narrowly and deleting emails related to the government’s action on the  issue in order to avoid disclosing them in response to an access to information request concerning the Ministry’s meetings regarding the Highway of Tears.

    The Coalition calls on the BC government to take immediate action to implement the recommendations for increased safety along the Highway of Tears and, as recommended by the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner, take steps to improve transparency and accountability in order to regain public confidence. Instead of working to avoid public scrutiny and accountability, we urge the government to focus on implementing effective solutions to the ongoing and systemic violence against Indigenous women and girls in BC.  We also call on the BC government to formally apologize to the families of women and girls who have gone missing from the Highway of Tears for the deletion of related emails and reports.

    The Coalition on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls initially came together in response to the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in British Columbia overseen by Commissioner Wally Oppal. Unfortunately the groups who formed the Coalition were shut out of the inquiry; however, the Coalition continues to meet regularly to pursue justice for murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls and has grown in number and strength.

    Media Inquiries:

    Amnesty International Canada, Jackie Hansen, (613) 744 -7667 ext. 243

    Battered Women’s Support Services, Angela Marie MacDougall, (604) 808-0507

    BC Assembly of First Nations, Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson, (250) 318-8527

    BC Civil Liberties Association, Josh Patterson, (778) 829-8973

    Butterflies in Spirit, Lorelei Williams, (778) 709-6498

    Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, Tribal Chief Terry Teegee, (250) 640-3256

    Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, Alice Kendall, (604) 681-8480

    February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee, Fay Blaney, (778) 714-0161

    First Nations Summit, Colin Braker, (604) 328-4094

    First United Church, Genesa Greening, (604) 681-8365

    PACE: Providing Alternatives Counselling & Education Society, Laura Dilley, (604) 872-7651

    Pivot Legal Society, Brenda Belak, (604) 537-0680

    Poverty and Human Rights Centre, Shelagh Day, (604) 872-0750

    Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, (250) 490-5314

    Vancouver Council of Women, Rosemary Mallory, (604) 985-0878

    Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre Society, Lillian Howard, (604) 253-9575

    West Coast LEAF, Kendra Milne, (604) 684-8772

    WISH Drop-in Centre Society, Mebrat Beyene, (604) 669-9474