Audrey Auger knows the grief of losing a child to the Highway of Tears.
In memory of Aielah Saric-Auger and all the other young women who have disappeared along that stretch of road on Highway 16, Ms. Auger and several of her daughter's friends will be walking from Prince Rupert to Prince George beginning tomorrow.
Their goal is not only to honour their memory, but to bring awareness about the tragic loss of life that has plagued this highway for the past two decades.
"That's where the awareness walk comes in, dealing with the loss of my daughter and supporting the other mothers who have lost their babies along the highway," Ms. Auger said. "And as a reminder to young people that it's not safe out here."
At 14, Aielah Saric-Auger was the youngest of the victims. Her body was found near the highway just outside Prince George in February, 2006.
"I'm awake now," Ms. Auger said. "I fell asleep for 15 months of my life. In the past, I did not want to live, I was suicidal for the first six months. As a mother, I felt like a failure."
She said an attempt to avoid tragedy was the reason why the Auger family decided to relocate to British Columbia from their original home in Alberta.
"The reason why I moved my family up here to Prince George was to get away from pedophiles, because we had a bad experience in Edmonton regarding my late daughter," Ms. Auger said.
"We came here to start a new life and unfortunately it didn't last that long."
Since 1988, an estimated 34 women have gone missing or been killed along the 724-kilometre road. The disappearances remain unsolved and many, say some family members, have gone largely uninvestigated.
First nations communities have been calling for a full investigation by the RCMP for some time, and an investigation into nine missing-women cases was launched last year.
Recommendations arising from a recent symposium on the problem included providing a shuttle bus service for women who cannot afford a bus ticket and increased RCMP patrols along the route.
"I attended the recent symposium in Prince George along with three of my colleagues and we feel it's a high priority that has been neglected for too long," North Coast MLA Gary Coons said.
"The recommendations in my mind are Band-Aid solutions. We need to ensure federal and provincial governments look at poverty and the adverse conditions in some of the communities. It has to be recognized, and can't be swept under the carpet."