A group of NDP MLAs are travelling Highway 16 in northern B.C. this week to highlight calls for better transportation options along the route.
Maurine Karagianis, the NDP critic for women’s issues, will start the journey from Prince Rupert to Prince George on Tuesday (April 22) with North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice and Victoria-Beacon Hill MLA Carole James.
“Our intention is to drive that route, get a very first-hand experience of what that is like to be travelling in that area,” she told the Straight by phone.
“We are going to stop along the road where there are a number of billboards that have been put up that warn women that it’s dangerous to hitchhike there.”
In his final report on the B.C. missing women inquiry, Wally Oppal urged the provincial government to develop an enhanced public transit system between northern communities, particularly along Highway 16, where many women have gone missing or been murdered.
As part of their two-day trip, the MLAs plan to meet with community leaders who have been calling for a shuttle bus for the area.
“Better bus service has been in demand up there for a very long time,” she noted.
The group also plans to pick up hitchhikers along the corridor known as the Highway of Tears.
“We know that it’s a vital link for people getting back and forth,” she said. “Certainly for many First Nations women, the simple chore of going and getting a quart of milk, or a loaf of bread, often, if there’s no other options, they will end up hitchhiking to do that.”
The MLAs intend to post social media and video updates along the way.
“We return to the legislature next week, and it’s our intention to really highlight to the government again the call for some kind of transportation options along the highway,” added Karagianis.