Highway of Tears doc to debut at TIFF

A documentary about the Highway of Tears will debut Thursday night at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Several people from this region will be in the audience when Highway Of Tears appears on screen. One of them is Carrier Sekani Tribal Council women's advocate Mavis Erickson, a lawyer and the former Highway of Tears community liaison based in Prince George.

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"I am pretty excited about it," said Erickson who has seen some early edits of Matt Smiley's film. "It's going to be an important tool for keeping the public aware. When you are a lawyer, you so often have to be dispassionate and keep emotional things in tight perspective but when I previewed this film, I cried. He did such a good job. It was like a kick in the gut."

Smiley will be in Prince George for a screening on March 15.

The cases on the long list of missing women on Highway 16, known as the Highway of Tears, are still actively investigated by police. There have been some discoveries made, but most often the closure sought by authorities and especially loved ones is still elusive.

The list also continues to grow. Smiley made sure to include recent mysteries like Madison Scott and Loren Leslie even though they are not part of the official Highway of Tears collection of cases.

Erickson said the Highway 16/Highway 97 region keeps adding new names to the list of victims but the problem is nationwide. Erickson said the latest reason to hold a national inquiry is 26-year-old Saint Mary’s University student Loretta Saunders, allegedly murdered in Halifax in early February. She was a criminology student. The focus of her honours degree thesis was missing and murdered aboriginal women.

"My heart breaks for her family, she was a talented and intelligent person, taken away so easily and heartlessly," said Erickson. "Something happens to be done, and it's the same in every province, this is a pattern in Canada everywhere, so that's why there has to be a national inquiry. If we sit idly by and don't implement prevention measures, and really take accountability for this, I guess it's just open season on aboriginal women."

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