In 2005, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police opened an investigation into nine Indigenous women and girls who had gone missing or were murdered along its Highway 16. The number of women that the police identified in its probe soon doubled, to 18, and the numbers under its E-PANA investigation project kept climbing.
The Highway of Tears, as the main throughway in British Columbia was dubbed, instantly became a symbol for unchecked violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada. The remoteness of the 718-kilometer highway that bisects many remote Indigenous communities and used by young Indigenous women makes it a ripe ground for violence.
In October 1969, Gloria Moody, a 26-year-old mother of two became the first of the 18 women victims identified by the police under the E-PANA project. Over the next almost 40 years, 17 other Indigenous women became victims along the highway with 14-year-old Aielah Saric Auger of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nations community being the last. Auger’s almost-unrecognizable body was discovered on an embankment of Highway 16 in February 2006, eight days after she went missing.
Women from other communities too have been victims of violence on the highway, with the most recent recorded homicide occurring as recently as August 2020. Official estimates show that more than 40 women have been murdered or have gone missing on the Highway of Tears, where the majority have been women of indigenous descent.
Studies have shown that poverty among first nation people and the people of British Columbia in general, has made them prime targets for the Highway of Tears. Despite measures like better transportation options, increased police patrols, and awareness drives, violence against Indigenous women, across Canada, continues.
Statistics show that more than 2,000 Indigenous women and girls have been reported to have gone missing or been murdered in the past three decades in Canada.