NDP MLAs to tour Highway of Tears

B.C. New Democrats will be traveling the Highway of Tears next week to highlight the need for safe public transportation between Prince Rupert and Prince George.

"One of the key recommendations of the Missing Women's Inquiry was for a shuttle bus along the Highway of Tears so that young women aren't being forced to hitchhike to get where they need to go," said Maurine Karagianis, the New Democrat critic for women's issues.

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"Better transportation options would save lives, and we feel we need to keep the pressure on," added Karagianis, who will be joined on the tour by MLAs Jennifer Rice (North Coast) and Carole James (Victoria-Beacon Hill).

They will arrive in Prince Rupert Monday evening and travel to Prince George over the next two days, with stops along the way.

Rice said that northerners have been calling on the Liberal government to act since the 2006 Highway of Tears Symposium.

"It's a service that is sorely needed," said Rice. "Anyone who has traveled that route has seen young women trying to flag down rides.

"These are often vulnerable young women who simply have no other choice. We're taking this trip to highlight the failure of the Liberal government to implement this key recommendation."

Local Liberal MLAs could not be reached for comment Friday, but in a November update on steps the government is taking to meet the inquiry's recommendations, it said the Transportation Ministry is "planning targeted consultations to identify and promote safe transportation options" along Highway 16.

The trio will meet with community and First Nations leaders along the route, with the aim of gathering more evidence to press the government to finally act.

James said First Nations women comprise a disproportionate number of victims on the Highway of Tears. She said the Liberal government must listen to First Nations who are calling for this important recommendation to finally be implemented.

"There are so many reasons for a shuttle bus to be put in place along the highway," said James. "I'm hopeful that the evidence we gather on this trip will help convince the Liberals that this is the right thing to do."

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