In death, three women shine light on Manitoba’s epidemic of missing natives

Monday, September 7, 2009
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

All three of them, as children, were hooked on crack cocaine and locked into a life spent selling themselves for money, drugs, food, shelter and the illusion of protection they couldn’t get anywhere else.

All spent years bouncing around Manitoba’s foster-care, youth-correction and child-welfare systems, from one program for at-risk minors to another.

And all were found dead, their bodies dumped on the outskirts of town. No one has been charged in their deaths, two of which have so far been declared homicides.

Cherisse Houle, Hillary Angel Wilson and Fonassa Bruyere, the teenage girls who have become the face of Winnipeg’s epidemic of missing and murdered young aboriginal women, have a lot in common. And they have become, quite literally, on police press releases and bulletin boards across the region, poster children for systemic failure in child welfare and police investigations – what a Manitoba cabinet minister calls a “state of emergency” for the region.

Continue reading

A haunting road for hitchhikers

Saturday, August 29, 2009 – Globe and Mail
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

A sinuous stretch of British Columbia’s Highway 16, which snakes from Prince Rupert’s rocky coast to Prince George in B.C.’s northern interior, has become synonymous with heartbreak and grisly mysteries.

The lonely, 718-kilometre winding ribbon of road is the only driving route connecting the string of isolated communities nearby. It passes through rugged mountainous and forested terrain, most of it deserted.

Buses on the rural thoroughfare are non-existent, the train often expensive and vulnerable hitchhikers many – even decades after an epidemic of disappearances and murders began, spawning a trail of grainy headshots and missing-person posters plastered on telephone poles across the province, but little in the way of answers or closure.

Continue reading