BC’s Highway of Tears, Highway 16

I don’t often write about negative things. I try to avoid negative things as much as possible, and I don’t like to pass any on. But the Highway of Tears is a subject that I’ve been following for many years, has been in my face during my last 2 long road trips in particular, and there’s a remote chance that passing the information on may even help keep someone safe.

The Highway of Tears is Highway 16, the Yellowhead Highway, a highway that crosses 4 provinces. It runs across central British Columbia as a 2-lane paved road, from Tete Jaune Cache in the Rocky Mountains to the east, to Prince Rupert on the west coast, a distance of 990 kilometers (615 miles) (see a map). Centred along this route, there have been many unsolved murders and disappearances of people between 1969 and 2011. All, or almost all according to some agencies, have been young women, and a high percentage of them have been Native. Different agencies and organizations disagree on the number of people – officially (RCMP) it’s 18, but 32 were identified in a ‘Take Back the Highway’ campaign in Prince Rupert in 2005, and some First Nations leaders estimate the number could be as high as 43. The Highway of Tears Web site (now gone) set up by the Carrier Sekani Family Services agency in Prince George states that many people believe that the number exceeds 40, though their “In Memory” page lists 23.
BC's Highway of Tears, Highway 16
The first reminder to people who know the story is seen as soon as you enter BC at Tete Jaune Cache – this simple “No Hitch Hiking” sign that I’m sure the vast majority of people barely notice. I did a U-turn to photograph this sign in mid-March while I was driving back to Whitehorse from Hinton, Alberta, with this article in mind.
BC's Highway of Tears, Highway 16
Not until you near Vanderhoof do the tears along the highway start to show. The region is inundated with billboards and signs of every type posted by the family and friends of Madison “Maddy” Scott, the last official disappearance linked to the Highway of Tears investigation. She was 20 years old when she vanished from Hogsback Lake near Vanderhoof on May 28th, 2011. Even offering a $100,000 reward hasn’t produced any results.
Madison 'Maddy' Scott - BC's Highway of Tears, Highway 16
Madison 'Maddy' Scott - BC's Highway of Tears, Highway 16
There are other billboards, too. He’s not officially part of the Highway of Tears investigation, but 28-year-old Perry Sebastian vanished from Southbank, a tiny, remote community south of Decker Lake (where this billboard was photographed) on January 5, 2012.
Perry Sebastian - BC's Highway of Tears, Highway 16
The first “Highway of Tears” billboard that I remember seeing was the one that still stands at Moricetown. Erected in 2007, it lists 3 young women – Tamara Chipman, and cousins Delphine and Cecilia Nikal. Tamara vanished in 1985 when she was 22, Delphine in 1990 when she was 16, and Cecilia in 1989 when she was 22. It’s not clear to me why these 3 women were chosen.
BC's Highway of Tears, Highway 16
BC's Highway of Tears, Highway 16

So that’s the basic Highway of Tears story that I’ve been watching for many years. There is no one-stop source for information about it, no agreement on what has happened or who has done it. Is it likely that a serial killer was/is working along the highway for 42 years (1969-2011)? I don’t know, but while you enjoy the scenery along BC Highway 16, I think it’s worth knowing about this incredibly sad story.


BC’s Highway of Tears, Highway 16 — 5 Comments

  1. That is so sad. I actually believe there are people without a conscious. They think no more of taking a human life than I do when killing a mosquito.

  2. thank you for this article. Is there any way I can share it on Facebook? It is an important, still-disregarded story that needs more public attention.

  3. It is so sad and tragic that there are so many unsolved disappearances of children and young adults–everywhere.

  4. Hi Murray,
    This is awesome! Thank you for posting.
    I would like to add a few personal thoughts. I have been to this area as a tourist from germany over a period of three moths. Been travelling there by bus, a rented RV and a rented Buick. I hiked, I met people, I slept at farms and lonely places, all as a B&B-tourist. Things that come to my mind when reading about the Highway-of-Tears is this: has it ever been established, that the “killer” was a human being? I am asking, because I met bears of all kinds, snakes, moose and elks. Is it certain, that these “Vanished” girls/young women/boys/young men have been hitch-hiking? I never have seen any one person doing this while I travelled there. A sideline: But – every overnight place I stayed at had besides a bible on the night stand a folder about those dangerous bears and ALL had flaming headlines and articles about those “killers” and everybody should shoot them at sight!! So it came to my mind that in a visiting tourist´s mind there must have been rising a huge “scare” of his/her life by those “monsters-on-four-feet” … .
    Here in Germany, when a person is missing, there will be – besides many many policemen – search dogs along with the scent of the missing person, and the start will be the place from: a- their home, b- there missing place/last seen. Of course, it does not always lead to the missing person.
    Best regards