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

Bill passes to make Sept. 30 National Day for Truth and Reconciliation statutory holiday

Residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad and CRD Area F director Joan Sorley were in Ottawa for the vote

Wally Webber elected to fourth term as Nuxalk Chief Councilor

Webber took the win with 174 votes out of a total of 389

Bella Coola expected to be hottest spot in B.C. today

Temperatures are predicted to rise to 18 C

B.C. minister says rural internet is ‘railroad of the 21st century’

Jinny Sims talks details about the $50-million provincial and possible $750-million federal funds

IT’S OFFICIAL: Mt. Timothy sale complete

New owners looking toward year-round mountain resort facility

VIDEO: Can you believe it? This B.C. hill pulls cars backwards up a slope

Sir Isaac Newton had clearly never been to this Vernon anomaly when he discovered gravity

Canucks hang on for 7-4 win over Senators

Horvat nets 2 for Vancouver

European, Canadian regulators to do own review of Boeing jet

Air Canada plans to remove the Boeing 737 Max from its schedule at least through July 1

Prime minister defends Liberal budget measures as sales effort gets underway

Conservatives under Andrew Scheer say it’s a spree funded by borrowing against the future

Mayor meets with B.C. health minister on homeless taxi transfers

Two homeless people were discharged from Surrey Memorial and sent to a Chilliwack shelter

B.C. lottery winner being sued by co-workers

They claim he owes them $200,000 each, in a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

Teacher reprimanded for conduct towards special needs student

Alan Stephen Berry told vice principal he did not have time to use positive strategies

‘Full worm super moon’ to illuminate B.C. skies on first day of spring

Spring has sprung, a moon named in honour of thawing soil marks final super moon until 2020

Having phone within sight while driving does not violate law: B.C. judge

The mere presence of a cell phone within sight of a driver is not enough for a conviction, judge says

Most Read