Highway of Tears documentary gets down to the truth [Review]

Highway of Tears documentary gets down to the truth [Review]

By Tyson Kelsall, Culture Editor

I have to tell the reader that they must watch this documentary as soon as they get the opportunity. It is thought provoking, powerful and important. All of those characteristics amplified in Prince George considering its’ geographical location. Watch this documentary. Your emotions will result in physiological reactions.

15 March 2014, the Highway of Tears documentary debut in Prince George at the Canfor Theatre in the University of Northern British Columbia. More than 350 people showed up to attend. The seats were filled. The stairs were filled. The standing area was…filled. I had, in fact, never seen the Canfor Theatre so busy.

The movie starts with a timeline of the women who have gone missing or been murdered on the Highway of Tears, which primarily stretches from Prince George to Smithers, but is associated all along the highway 16. The deaths and disappearances began in 1969 and continue to this day. As the film states near the beginning, a majority of these victims were Aboriginal. The film, produced and directed by Canadians Matt Smiley and Carly Pope does a good job of allowing the people affected to have a voice and primarily shape the narrative. Prince George residents Mavis Erickson, Mary Teegee, Sarah Boyd-­Noel, Terry Teegee, Leonard Ward, amongst others are featured in the film. Many family members, friends and acquaintances of the victims are interviewed.

Aside from focusing on the victims, there was also an investigation into the root causes for why these atrocities were happening, and why so many cases are left unsolved. The documentary does a good job of portraying willful RCMP ignorance and systemic racism. However, after the film there was a panel discussion, and Mary Teegee told the local RCMP to stand up and acknowledged that they were putting in an effort to combat these issues.

During the panel discussion, Paul Michel, Director of the First Nations Centre at UNBC, walked through the audience with a microphone. Many of the people who had questions were in tears or holding them back. The Highway of Tears documentary cracks open a great deal of issues associated with its namesake. Hopefully this is only the first step in improving safety for women, and finding closure for the victims’ families and their communities.