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

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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

The old Yount school in Youbou has stood empty for years, but now a group has plans to turn it into a mixed-use property with affordable housing and tourist services. (Submitted)
Group sets sights on tranforming old Yount school property in Youbou

School District 79 has already commenced a process to sell the school through a formal proposal call

North Cowicha to extend the time lines of its official community plan update. (File photo)
North Cowichan to extend time line of OCP review

Municipality also adds $55,000 to OCP budget

Cowichan Capitals’ Logan Rands digs for the puck along the boards in the Alberni Valley Bulldogs’ zone midway through the third period of their BC Hockey League game at the Alberni Valley Multiplex on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Cowichan Capitals pick up first two wins of BCHL season

Brockman, Moffatt both up to four goals on the year

A nearly four-hour standoff at an apartment complex on Cowichan Lake Road in Duncan ended peacefully on Wednesday, April 14. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Standoff at Duncan apartment ends peacefully

Police surround building as homeowner held in apartment by adult son

B.C. Centre for Disease Control maps showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 4-10. (BCCDC image)
Parksville-Qualicum passes Nanaimo in new COVID-19 cases

Greater Victoria had more new cases than any other Island area: B.C. Centre for Disease Control

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The plane blasted through an airport fence and down a hill, before stopping before a cement barrier on Highway 5A, right in front of a school bus. Photo submitted.
Student pilot crashes plane onto Highway 5A almost hitting school bus

Aircraft hit pavement right in front of school bus

Eight-year-old Piper and her family were raising money to help Guinevere, the bearded dragon, get a gynecological surgery. Sadly, the reptile didn’t survive the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Lizard fails to survive surgery, GoFundMe dollars help Langley family offset medical bills

Guinevere, a pet bearded dragon, underwent an ovariectomy on Tuesday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A driver stopped by Saanich police following a road rage incident on April 15 was found to be impaired, in violation of a license restriction and in a damaged vehicle. They received a 90-day driving prohibition and a 30-day vehicle impound. (Saanich Police Traffic Safety Unit/Twitter)
Road rager fails breathalyzer on busy B.C. highway in vehicle he shouldn’t be driving

Saanich police say man was operating vehicle without required ignition lock

The family of Iris McNeil, shown here with members of her family, has launched a petition to deny parole for the man who murdered McNeil in 1997. (Family photo)
Family fights killer’s release from Vancouver Island prison

Shortreed serving an indeterminate sentence at William Head Institution

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier John Horgan booked to get AstraZeneca shot Friday

‘Let’s show all British Columbians that the best vaccine is the one that’s available to you now,’ he said

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pfizer to increase vaccine deliveries in Canada as Moderna supply slashed

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about the province’s COVID-19 vaccine plans during a news conference at the legislature in Victoria. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
P.1 variant likely highest in B.C. due to more testing for it: Dr. Henry

Overall, just under 60% of new daily cases in the province involve variants

Most Read