Suicide, substance abuse and grief in focus as MMIWG hearings open in B.C. – British Columbia

On the first day of National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls hearings in Smithers, B.C., speakers opened up about thoughts of suicide, alcoholism and other struggles they faced after losing family members along the Highway of Tears.

In her opening remarks, chief commissioner Marion Buller noted the significance of bringing the hearings to Highway 16 between Prince Rupert and Prince George.

Chief commissioner Marion Buller speaks before the start of hearings at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Smithers, B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

“This is a location, a very important location, because it’s part of the national tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls,” she said. “Here, we will listen to families and survivors of violence.”

RCMP have identified 18 victims linked to the Highway of Tears dating back to 1969, but the commission is casting a wider net by including testimony from people whose lost family members are not included in the official count.

That includes Vicki Hill, who was just six months old in 1978 when her mother, Mary Jane Hill, was found dead outside Prince Rupert.

Vicki Hill holds a photo of her late mother Mary Jane Hill while testifying during hearings at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Smithers, B.C. Her mother was found dead along Highway 16 near Prince Rupert in 1978 at the age of 31. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Hill was first to testify, speaking about her frustrations in trying to learn more about her mother’s death and in dealing with the lack of cooperation she received from officials.

A coroner’s inquest determined the cause of death was bronchitis and bronchopneumonia, but the inquest report also ruled it a homicide — though no one has ever been charged. Hill believes her mother was left to die.

Megan Printz, right, rests her head on her mom Lorna Brown’s shoulder while listening to Chief Vivian Tom testify about her late daughter Destiny Rae Tom, who was killed in 2013, during hearings at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Smithers, B.C. They were attending to represent Printz’s cousin and Brown’s niece Tamara Chipman, who went missing in 2005 after being last seen hitchhiking on the Highway of Tears. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

“How does it make you feel that the RCMP does not recognize your mother as a…

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