Chief Vivianne Tom speaks at the community hearings about losing her daughter to domestic violence. (Marisca Bakker photo)

Chief Vivianne Tom speaks at the community hearings about losing her daughter to domestic violence. (Marisca Bakker photo)

Stories of loss, pain heard at missing and murdered Indigenous women inquiry

Commission hears stories from family members of missing and murdered women in Smithers.

Stories of loss, frustration and life-long grieving were shared during the first B.C. stop for the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The week-long hearing, taking place in Smithers, is the second of nine places so far announced the inquiry is visiting across Canada, and the first since it delayed hearings to change how it prepared families ahead of time. The first was held May 30 to June 1 in Whitehorse.

The chief commissioner and others involved in the inquiry participated in a walk into Smithers Monday evening, followed by the lighting of the sacred fire, a water ceremony and a brushing off ceremony for families of the murdered and missing women.

Arrival to Smithers

The first person to share her story to the panel was Vicki Hall. Hall is from Prince Rupert and was only six months old when her mother was murdered in 1978. She lived with her grandparents but said she suffered abuse and left the house at age 13. Her mother, Mary Jane Hill, was only 31 when she died. Her body was discovered naked outside of Prince Rupert along Highway 16, while her clothes were found in an alleyway in the city.

READ MORE: Families walk Highway of Tears before MMIW hearing

READ MORE: Chief says MMIW inquiry should push on despite hiccups

The case remains unsolved and Hill told the commissioners that she doesn’t know if there was ever a suspect. She went on to say that she’s had trouble finding information and that the local RCMP have not been helpful in giving her answers. The only thing she has ever gotten is a 90 page copy of a coroner’s inquest.

Hill has asked the RCMP to see her mother’s case but was told the images were too disturbing.

“But why can’t I have them? Who else has seen them?” she questioned.

Protect E-PANA investigators (a task force dedicated to the unsolved murders along the Highway of Tears) spoke with her while doing their investigation but told her her mother does not fit the criteria to be on their list. She told the commissioners that was frustrating and makes her feel angry. Hill explained that she has had many personal problems to overcome including turning to alcohol to numb the pain.

She hopes the outcome of the inquiry will help get better transit along Highway 16, improved cell service from Terrace to Prince Rupert, more signage warning of the dangers of hitch hiking and justice for mother and all the other missing and murdered women. But nothing will bring back her mom.

“She won’t be there for me when I need her the most and that isn’t fair. She didn’t deserve this whatsoever, she had children to look after and siblings. She wasn’t there when her grandchildren were born. It’s so tough and now I have to deal with it,” she said.

Hill added that she isn’t just speaking up for her mom but for all the families victimized by the Highway of Tears.

“I can feel the hurt. I am not afraid. I have my rights too and things need to change no matter what,” she said.

Chief Vivianne Tom from Burns Lake also spoke about losing her daughter in 2013 and what led up to her murder.

Tom’s daughter Destiny was only 21 when her abusive boyfriend killed her. Tom told the commission her and her husband thought about suicide or turning to alcohol to end their pain but decided that raising Destiny’s baby was more important.

Tom said the toughest part of losing her daughter was seeing her body in the mud and snow under a tarp and the police not letting her go under the crime scene tape to hug her daughter one last time.

Tom said there weren’t enough resources to help her daughter get clean and get away from her baby’s father, despite him being charged twice after assaulting her.

Because of time constraints the next two sessions ran simultaneously in two different places.

One of Darlene Jack’s family members, a victim of the Highway of Tears, spoke in one room of the Northwest Community College beside the hall, and the family of Tamara Chipman’s, a missing Prince Rupert woman, continued in the friendship hall.

Several members of Chipman’s family gathered together in front of the commission. Her father spoke first about when she first went missing in 2005, often breaking down.

He said the RCMP were helpful when filing the missing persons report, something he’s heard otherwise from other families of missing women. Tamara had her own car and her father wasn’t sure why she was last seen hitchhiking near Prince Rupert.

Her aunt Lorna Brown blames social services for taking away her son when he was only six months old and treating her unfairly, the result being a spiral into a different lifestyle.

“They judged her but I saw how much she loved him and how it tore her apart not to have him,” she said. “If only they had given him back to her sooner, I think she would still be here with us today.”

The community hearings continue Wednesday and Thursday in Smithers.

MMIWGSmithers

 

Florence Naziel, who is related to Tamara Chipman, a missing woman, brought photos of Highway of Tears victims to the national inquiry. (Marisca Bakker photo)

Florence Naziel, who is related to Tamara Chipman, a missing woman, brought photos of Highway of Tears victims to the national inquiry. (Marisca Bakker photo)

Tamara Chipman’s father (far right) breaks down while telling stories of his daughter, Tamara, who went missing in 2005 along the Highway of Tears. (Marisca Bakker photo)

Tamara Chipman’s father (far right) breaks down while telling stories of his daughter, Tamara, who went missing in 2005 along the Highway of Tears. (Marisca Bakker photo)

People walked from Prince Rupert, along the Highway of Tears, to Smithers ahead of the community hearings. (Josh Casey photo)

People walked from Prince Rupert, along the Highway of Tears, to Smithers ahead of the community hearings. (Josh Casey photo)

Just Posted

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Johann Oriana and Neo Moren paint a Yoshi head on June 11 at Salmon Arm Secondary’s Sullivan campus. (Zachary Roman - Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm Secondary grads create with parking lot canvas

Students paint the parking lot June 11, leaving their mark on the school

Canadian blues sensation Colin James will close down Saturday night, Aug. 14 of the 2021 digital Salmon Arm Roots Blues Festival. (Black Press Media file photo)
Salmon Arm’s Roots & Blues branches out for second online festival

Nine acts, including Colin James, Caleigh Cardinal, to perform on festival’s website Aug. 13 and 14.

Ron Flockhart and sister, LaVerne—who’s holding her grandson, Conner—at the Sicamous and District Recreation Centre for the unveiling of the sign honouring Rob Flockhart on June 6, 2021. (Contributed)
New sign honours the late Rob Flockhart at Sicamous and District Recreation Centre

The sign was unveiled on June 6 to a small group of Flockhart’s family members

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

The remains of the Mid-Island Co-op in Whiskey Creek along the Alberni Highway on Friday, June 18, after a blaze the day before devastated the gas station. (Michael Briones photo)
VIDEO: Camper van explosion burns Vancouver Island gas station to the ground

Nine fire departments responded to the incident, no injuries reported

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. The website for a Broadway theatre showing "Springsteen on Broadway" said it would only allow guests "fully vaccinated with an FDA-approved vaccine" — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
No Springsteen for you: AstraZeneca not good enough to qualify for Broadway ticket

Victoria area mayor among those unable to attend New York entertainment due to COVID-19 restriction

The crosswalk is at Third Street and Mackenzie and was installed on June 17. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
Painting a rainbow: First Pride crosswalk installed in Revelstoke

‘It signals to the community that this city is inclusive,’ Mayor Gary Sulz

The BC Ferries’ website is down for the second time in one week from what they say is likely an overwhelming increase in web traffic. (Black Press Media file photo)
Surging web traffic crashes BC Ferries’ site again

Website down for second time this week

The Shuswap River in Enderby draws in people from near and far in the summer months of each year. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
RDNO ends lengthy attempt to bring new boating regulations to Shuswap River

With no consensus among stakeholders or remaining funds, the regional district is moving on

John Furlong told the Vancouver Board of Trade on Feb. 20, 2020 that he thinks the city could and should bid for the 2030 Winter Games. (CP photo)
PODCAST: John Furlong lays out a ‘provincial’ B.C. plan to host the 2030 Winter Olympics

Podcast: Chat includes potential role for Vancouver Island communities

The pilot of this single-engine propeller plane was unhurt after crash-landing in a Como Road orchard Friday, June 18. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Plane crash lands into Grand Forks orchard, pilot injured

RCMP have secured the crash site, pending investigation by Transport Canada

Most Read