The provincial NDP spent much of Tuesday morning's question period at the legislature in Victoria demanding the provincial government fund a shuttle bus service to provide safe transportation for at-risk people along Highway 16.
"There is no budget or timeline for a shuttle bus on the Highway of Tears, no mental health or addiction service programs for and by aboriginal women and youth, no mandatory police sensitivity training, no justice to victims' families through a compensation fund, no champion at all to implement the recommendations [from the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry]," NDP MLA Jenny Kwan said during a nearly 20-minute debate on the topic.
Dozens of women have gone missing along Highway 16 in northern B.C. over the past few decades, many of whom were murdered and some who have yet to be found. In December 2012 Wally Oppal released his commission's report which contained 63 recommendations, including setting up a publicly funded transportation option. It would allow people who can't afford conventional travel to get from one place to another without having to use higher risk options like hitchhiking.
Justice Minister Suzanne Anton replied to nine questions from four NDP MLAs on the need for safe transportation options in northern B.C. and other recommendations stemming from Oppal's report. She emphasized what the government has already done to improve police services and said work to create a safe transportation network is ongoing.
"The issue of the transportation is one where there are consultations with communities in the north, and we are working on that one," she said.
That answer didn't satisfy NDP leader Adrian Dix, who said the 15 months since Wally Opal delivered his commission's report should have been enough time to develop and implement some form of shuttle bus system.
"This is a crucial issue. It's been identified for eight years," he said. "The government hasn't acted on it, and this bafflegab is so disrespectful considering the seriousness of the issue."
Anton objected to the use of the term "bafflegab" and pointed to B.C.'s crime rate, which she said is the lowest it has been in 40 years. Anton also said the government is acting by introducing the Missing Persons Act during the current legislative sitting, which she hopes will give police better tools to find women soon after they go missing.
"Nobody in this House - nobody - wants to see a tragedy like the missing and murdered women happen again," Anton said. "All of us need to work to ensure that that does not happen."
© Copyright 2014