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Highway of Tears

Going going...

A tranquil stretch of road.
But is all as it seems?

Why are we so eager to believe the worst?

Driving along Canada Highway 16 we came across a curious and ghastly billboard that proclaimed it the Highway of Tears. Pictures of young girls, “Killer on the loose”, and the Highway number surrounded with little cartoon tears, attract the attention of the passing motorist. We stopped immediately to contemplate the happy smiling pictures of the victims whose young lives had taken such a turn and were saddened by the fact that such a tragedy could be enfolding on this beautiful, remote, and scenic road.


Its on a billboard, in two foot letters,
so it must be true.

As soon as I got to my hotel room in Vanderhoof, I started my research into the subject and found that the case was much more complicated and colored with grays than black and white. The first red flag was the fact that there were five disappearances over a period of eighteen years, which got me thinking “I wonder how many people disappear on an average highway over the course of almost two decades?” I realize that one disappearance is one too many but given such a long period to time some are inevitable. On the whole good roads are a good thing but sometimes the price is exacted in human blood.

Another aspect of the case(s) is that these people are missing, so they might have met their end far from this BC location, in some distant city, town, or suburb. So many things we don’t know – were some of these girls simply escaping small town life? Parents don’t like to think that their children would flee the life they have built for them. When doubts like these begin to accumulate the data support for the serial killer premise begins to crumble…


The majestic stage for tragedy.

Why is it that we are so ready to believe the worst of people? Serial killers represent the low point of humanity and a handful of disappearances over many many years leads us to the most horrible conclusions. I am not a religious man but I believe that most people are honest, kind, and helpful. The above premise has been verified over and over during this trip. But, in the true spirit of Thomas Aquinas, I had the conclusion before I started. If I believed otherwise I would have never left my safe and comfortable home in San Francisco.

13 Responses to “Highway of Tears”

  1. Dennis says:

    I think that watching the evening news on TV gives viewers plenty of reasons to think that the world is full of psychopaths and perverts. I was at a major electronics retailer this weekend, and watched in disbelief as a woman accused a male shopper of trying to touch her daughter, after he waved hello to the little girl as he walked past them.

    I was saddened by the thought that the girl would learn to never trust strangers. And what a cold world it would be if well-meaning adults wouldn’t wave hello to innocent children for fear of being branded as pedophiles.

  2. Fred says:

    Thomas Aquinas and mass murder in the wilderness! Thats why I read your blog . . . Your trip is not just a journey on the corporeal plain but of the mind as well.

  3. Vinay says:

    I think it is the ho-hum and humdrum of ordinary life. Anything repetitive bores us. Our imagination sweeps beyond what we see everyday. Anything grotesque and fantastic catches interest. I think it is the freak value and the remoteness of the possibility of such that make them interesting. People dying everyday in war-weary places across the world no longer make people sit up. I think this is also the reason TV in general and reality TV in specific feeds on freaks.

  4. Pramod Taskar says:

    Wow??? Emphasizing on good does not necessarily elicit good from others. One missing is too many whether it is one year or decade.

  5. Suhasini Taskar says:

    Shreesh & Neena,
    Please be cautious and alert when you get these kind of warning signals. The people who have a sick mind do not understand the value of life since they had some experiences that made them that way. We should be very careful so that so that they do not get an opportunity to vicimize us.
    Shreesh & Neena you both have a lot to offer to this world and a bright future ahead of you.
    We have postponed our trip back to US in order to complete the transactions in Pune. The current plan is to be back home by 24th of November instead of 14th.
    Looking forward to hearing from you,
    With Love

  6. Shreesh says:

    Our mind is very receptive to the fantastic and the unusual. Maybe, as Vinay says, the tedium of everyday life makes it so – who doesn’t want to fly on the flight of imagination?

    There are people who exploit this natural readiness and fill us with fears that essentially groundless. Through this fear they can control us by saying “since you fear X, I can protect you from X”. But the fear X is nothing, just a wisp, phantasm.

    Dennis’ observation is telling – good people doubt themselves needlessly. No one should fear waving hello to a little girl. If I were to meet that shopper I would tell him to keep his friendly and pleasant demeanor, despite what others say…

  7. shanta auntie says:

    I agree with Fred. Your journey is not just driving to the remote and the pictures but the lessons of life. I read everything in your blogs.. there is so much to learn and you have it so easily available for us. I am hoping I will have my spritual journey through your experiences and I am thankful to you and Nina.
    Unfortunately the media and the entertainment industry have really brought out the worst of mankind and it keeps bombarding at us 24 hrs!

  8. tania says:

    As someone who lives along the highway of tears and deals with the unanswered questions are it every day,Iv been working on a website for a couple years triing to spread the work about our Missing women.In away it makes me sad that the only reason you heard about it was from a sign along the highway!I hoped that we had managed to share our staories with people world wide,but I see now we have not reached out to everyone yet.
    Id ask that you check out my site and the officle site http://www.highwayoftears.piczo.com
    and most important PLEASE share our stories with everyone you know,we need to put an end to our Missing and in some cases Murdered women..

  9. Rae says:

    It would be a glorious world to live in, and believe the most horrific did not happen. If we could only close our eyes, clack our heels and all the 3000 murdered and missing weman would be hame safe with their friends and families. That is not the way the world is anymore. The serial killer is real, 3000 since the year after I was born and the numbers keep climbing. I lived for a while in Prince George, Hazeltons, Radium Hotsprings, Cranbrook, and other regions surrounding this sickness, since I was 14 years old to my now 30’s there has been tragedy along that stretch of highways. The most traumatizing to me as a child was the murder of my two dear friends Alicia Germain (leah) and Roxanne Thierra. They were both my age back then, and justice is stilll to provail. whom or what ever it is is still causing havock in our small communities, for those affected, we will heal, JUSTICE WILL PROVAIL.
    and for those that might believe the story may be too much for belief…….BELIEVE, A KILLER IS ON THE LOOSE!!!

  10. Shreesh says:

    Hi Rae,

    I am sorry that you lost your friends in this way. But unfortunately the data available does not seem to support that there is a serial killer, other than the fact that there is a natural attrition of vulnerable youth along a large roadway.

  11. Meshon says:

    I think, even back in October of 2007, the number of missing women being investigated was actually 18, not 5. http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20071012/highway_oftears_071012/20071012/

  12. Robin says:

    I find your response to the highway of tears offensive, ethnocentric and typically “American.” Eighteen women, 17 of them Aboriginal, have gone missing along this highway, not 5; and even 5 in 18 years, for the size of these communities is ridiculously high. You shortsightedly neglect to mention that, when these women’s bodies are found they are often hideously mutilated, with evidence of rape and torture. Whether a serial killer is on the loose or not, a pattern of aboriginal women being ‘disappeared’ and murdered has been emerging in rural Canadian communities. In fact if you look at the data of sexual assaults, abuse and homicide, aboriginal women are among the most susceptible group in Canadian society on all counts. Highway 16 was dubbed the highway of tears after 20 years of Aboriginal women being murdered and disappeared with little action. In addition, perhaps your so-called “research” did not delve into the fact that apart from the highway itself, in reserves and interior communities such as Price George, Smithers, Burns Lake, and Vanderhoof, aboriginal women are victims of rape and homicide on a far greater scale than the non-aboriginal population.

    The “highway of tears” awareness movement is a grassroots one, which puts billboards up warning against hitchhiking because the inattention from the police, and Canadian society at large. It is a symbolic representation of the violence that has occurred not only on the highway, but of what goes in within these communities as well.

    My concern with your perception is not about the inability for Canadians to accurately pinpoint ‘serial killer data’ when they see it, it is with the tone in which you nonchalantly excuse these tragedies as ‘teenagers escaping small town life’ or an ‘inevitable occurrence’ over time and space. Maybe in San Francisco, five, ten or eighteen disappearances are not taken seriously -they are a natural ‘inevitable occurrence,’ if you will. But this issue in Canadian society has been trivialized enough; it is attitudes like yours that allow crimes against aboriginal women to continue thriving. But of course, the good ol’ “blame the victim discourse” takes the blood off all of our hands.

    I do not know whether or not there is a serial killer on the loose in rural BC. But given Robert Picton’s charges with homicides of 22 prostitutes in Vancouver, why is it so farfetched? Sixty women have gone missing from one area of Vancouver, most of them Aboriginal. He has already been charged with six of the murders. How do you explain this? What are your qualifications to disregard 5, 10, or 18 women going missing along a stretch of highway? How long did you spend there and how much time did you spend talking to the victims’ families?

    In the neoliberal environment of the US, the experiences of these communities may be trivialized as ‘naive Canadians’ who don’t know a ‘serial killer’ case when they see one. But before you post your uninformed thoughts online do some real research; there is an intensely racist and sexist environment in British Columbia in which Aboriginal women are put at a great deal of risk. Furthermore, we tend to blame their “unsafe” behaviors for their own victimization. These aboriginal communities have been fractured and paralyzed because of these disappearances; what choice do they have but to look for accountability in one serial killer and to put up warning signs along their highways? These explanations are not a product of over-exposure to media -how ignorant! This is a response to social realities in which people are genuinely afraid for their wives and daughters.

    Our own country has trivialized these experiences enough, please do not come here to try to further de-legitimize the experience of First Nations communities. I reject the notion that “good roads are a good thing but sometimes the price is exacted in human blood.” This barely makes sense for one thing and again for some reason the blood is consistently female and a member of a minority population. This is exactly the typically “American” response that disgusts me; spreading democracy is seen as good thing by US foreign policy and vast amounts of blood are spilled to make this realized. But, blood does not have to be spilled to achieve any goals, we just allow ourselves to think that so we can sleep better at night. If you felt strongly enough to present your one-sided point of view about the Highway of tears to the world, I really hope you present the other side as well so that you don’t continue to add to the discourse of Racism and de-legitimized claims of First Nations communities in Canada. Honestly, it is the last thing we need.

  13. Shreesh says:

    Hi Robin,

    Let me first state that it was not my intention to offend anyone by what I wrote in the “Highway of Tears” post on my website. Since you are clearly offended by what I had to say, I apologize that my words caused you pain. In this response I will try to defend myself the best I can against your charges.

    I will tackle the most serious first, that I seek to “de-legitimize the experience of First Nations communities”, and that I “continue to add to the discourse of Racism”. The post in question does not in any way mention First Nations, native communities, or any of the issues they face. Nor does it deny that the murders along Highway 16 have occurred, and on multiple occasions I express remorse at these events. I am a son of immigrant parents and the owner of a minority business for thirteen years. Calling me a racist is inflammatory and counterproductive to the discourse.

    You charge that I did inadequate research, which is possible. My research was limited to a review of the http://www.highwayoftears.ca website and several official responses in the Canadian media. Based on the information available at the time I felt that the official response had more merit. It has been almost a year and a half since I wrote my post, if there is additional information on the case(s) since then I will revise my opinion. Again, I wish to reiterate that the scope of the article is fairly narrow and can be simply stated as “Does the evidence support the assertion that there is a serial killer is loose along Highway 16 in BC?” I will contact you privately as to how I can further gather facts related to the case.

    Lastly, I do not “nonchalantly excuse these tragedies as ‘teenagers escaping small town life'”, its just that if event X occurs, the simplest and most common explanation for X is most likely the correct one. For example if a friend is late for a lunch appointment among the numerous explanations there could be: A) He is stuck in traffic, B) He had a traffic accident, C) He got hit by a meteor. Since A) is the simplest and most likely there needs to be strong evidence for either B or C (as in I get an SMS about a traffic accident, or I hear about eminent collisions on the news). This is not to say the probability of B or C is zero, but these unlikely events need more evidence to support them.

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