The Walk4Justice is a nonprofit organization that was created
by donation and volunteer since January 2008.
Gladys Radek and Bernie Williams co-founded this group to raise
awareness about the plight of the far too many Missing and Murdered women
across Canada. Our supporters consist of family members who have lost their
loved ones across the nation, grassroots women and men from all walks of life
have joined us in our efforts to demand justice, closure, equality and
Gladys’s niece, Tamara Lynn Chipman disappeared off Highway
16 out of Prince Rupert, BC, now dubbed the Highway of Tears in northern
British Columbia. She vanished without a trace September 21, 2005. Tamara was a
young mother of one and her father’s only natural daughter. When she
disappeared our natural instincts were to check the streets in Vancouver, as
many young people migrate from the north to Vancouver, or any major hubs
throughout the province. Unfortunately, Tamara is still missing and we have no
idea where she is.
During my search for her in the Downtown Eastside of
Vancouver I met Bernie Williams. Bernie is a long time advocate and voice for
the women who have been forced to live on the streets of Canada’s poorest
postal code, the DTES. She has been a frontline worker in the DTES for 25
years. Her mother and two sisters were also victims of violence who were
murdered in the DTES over the years.
Together we started to gather information from the family
members who had lost their loved ones whether it is from the Highway of Tears,
the Downtown Eastside, Vancouver Island, throughout BC and eventually right
across the nation. Our data surpassed what the RCMP was saying and our numbers
increased as more family members came forward. We started out with Tamara,
Bernie’s mom and two sisters. Today our data base has taken us to over 3,000
missing or murdered women across the country.
The vision of walking across Canada to raise awareness came
to us after we attended the memorial walk my cousin, Florence Naziel, and her
family had organized from Prince Rupert, BC to Prince George, BC. The Highway
of Tears Symposium was held March 28, 29, and 30, 2006. This symposium
consisted of family members, top brass Royal Canadian Mounted Police,
government officials, politicians and First Nations leadership. After three
days of deliberations we came up with the Highway of Tears Initiative with 33
recommendations to provide safety nets for the vulnerable women and children in
The Highway of Tear gained notoriety in June 2002 when
Nicole Hoar disappeared while hitchhiking from Prince George to Smithers, BC.
Nicole was the only Caucasian woman of the 9 who went missing, according to the
RCMP. The other women were First Nations women and young girls. When she went
missing there was a public outcry that women were disappearing from this 734
kilometer stretch of highway between Prince Rupert and Prince George, BC. To
date Nicole is still missing. Once the Highway of Tears was recognized and
after the symposium, many other families came forward with the names of their
loved ones who had disappeared over the past 4 decades. It did not take us long
to realize that there is a serious problem of discrimination, racism and lack
of political will to find our lost loved ones. The other 8 women on this
Highway of Tears list are First Nations. In 2007, the RCMP conveniently added
10 more names to this list and took one name off. RCMP official list now stands
at 18. Through our research we are at approximately 44 names, just on the
Highway of Tears and family members who live in the north claim there are over
As of today, the Highway of Tears Initiative has fallen to the
wayside due to lack of political will to implement the recommendations that
were made. Walk4Justice speaks out of this particular issue to all levels of
government throughout BC. We fight for the families to seek justice, closure,
equality and accountability. At this time we are demanding they reopen this
Highway of Tears Initiative to help the families provide a safety net for the
most vulnerable women and children of today’s society in the north. Due to the
lack of resources available, especially to the First Nations communities, women
and young girls are still going missing and being murdered at an alarming rate.
We continue to walk through this northern territory to be the voices of the
family members who are still suffering after decades of wondering where their
loved ones are. We raise their voices to all levels of government to recognize
and acknowledge all the issues around the disappearance of these women.
Since 1986, Bernie Williams has advocated for the victims
and family members of the Pickton farm in Port Coquitlam, BC. She and many
frontline workers tried to raise attention to the first Missing and Murdered
Women’s Task Force in Vancouver, BC, the Vancouver Police Department and RCMP
that there were far too many women going missing from the Downtown Eastside.
According to police data there are 69 women who had gone missing since 1986 to
2002 when Robert Pickton was arrested and charged with the murder of 26 of
these women. He was eventually charged with 6 second degree murder charges and
the other 20 were stayed. Pending public inquiry into the first 6 victims is
underway in January 2011.
In January 2008, Bernie and I were at wits end trying to
figure out how we could raise awareness about our accumulating data base. The
families we were in contact with inspired us to continue to be their voices. We
researched and started to demand answers and strategies to alleviate the now
prevalent lack of resources available to stop the ongoing violence against
We created a petition demanding a full public inquiry, and
our data base climbed to 2,932 names of Missing and Murdered women. We
organized our first walk from Vancouver, BC to Ottawa, Ontario. Our goal was to
raise awareness and for the governments to acknowledge the plight of all women
in Canada. We walked from June 21, 2008 to our rally at parliament hill in
Ottawa September 15, 2008. We delivered to the Prime Minister’s office a
petition with 2500 on line and 3000 hard copy signatures demanding a public
inquiry and our list of 2,932 names of Missing and Murdered women nation wide.
During this time we also realized that discrimination and racism were very
prevalent as the numbers for First Nations women were much higher than any
other ethnic group.
According to the Native Women’s Association of Canada, a
national organization who researched missing and murdered women in Canada since
2004 have 600 First Nations women on their list. We agree with them and
according to both our data bases this means that at least 20% of all the
missing and murdered women are First Nations. To our First Nations communities
this is devastating because our people are only 3% of the total population of
Canada. Because of these realizations we believe that genocide is in progress
as the majority of these women who are being victimized are in their child
bearing years. The average age range from 16 to 25 is being murdered. We do,
however, have victims as young as 2 and the oldest is 78 years old.
In 2009, we organized another walk from Vancouver, BC to
Prince Rupert to honor those victims from the Highway of Tears. We spoke out
for the families who were, at this time, telling us of the failure of the
Highway of Tears Initiative. We know that the RCMP, Victim Services and
investigators have all been funded by the government during this time, yet
nobody seems to be helping any of the family members cope with their losses.
The government and judicial system has seriously failed in their lawful duties
to protect all members of society.
Our research has also led us to the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights where at least 17 of the 30 amendments have been violated
pertaining to our First Nations women. We are now recognized by Amnesty
International and KAIROS and many local, provincial and federal organizations
that have either heard or participated in our events, walks, presentations and
forums. They support all our actions in whatever way they can.
In 2010 we organized another walk from Kamloops, BC, to
Winnipeg, Manitoba to complete the Highway of Tears. Our message was loud and
clear that we wanted a National Public Inquiry into the deaths of all our
women. We also carried a strong message that there is a need for a National
Missing and Murdered Women’s Symposium. Our First Nations leadership and the
Squamish Nation has agreed to host this event in Vancouver, BC as soon as
possible. We are currently networking with our sponsors and family members to
co-ordinate this event for October 2011.
Throughout each and every journey we gained momentum by
getting support from all our First Nations leaderships, employee unions,
politicians and thousands of family members across the nation who fully support
our walks and venues by signing resolutions to implement social changes needed
to address these issues are all missing and murdered women. We have elders to
watch over our groups as we walk and we encourage our youth to be involved so
they are aware of the issues. Communities came together to ensure the walkers
were looked after while we passed through their communities throughout Canada.
Supporters raised funds throughout virtually every community we reached to
ensure the walkers were accommodated, fed and donations of basic life
necessities while we traveled. They gathered in solidarity to have their voices
heard to the top levels of government. We rally for Issues from poverty,
homelessness, addictions, and government interference from the residential
schools, the Ministry of Child and Family Services and the judicial system as a
whole. We speak out for all the families, hold rallies, vigils and family
gatherings for the victim’s families and continue to gather information on a
daily basis. We keep in contact with the families who now have a glimmer of
hope that one day something will be done to help get justice for their love
ones and to prevent their future generations from disappearing.
We want our own Aboriginal Task Force to handle our Missing
and Murdered women’s cases. We feel that with our own task force the issues
will come to light and be dealt with in a proper manner. At this time, the
majority of our cases remains unsolved or is cold cases. We feel the RCMP and
police are not investigating these cases to the best of their ability. Again,
racism and discrimination play a significant role in our findings. Since our
journey has begun violence against all aboriginal people and overall society
has been compromised even more by police brutality, particularly in British
Columbia in the past 5 years. Throughout our journey’s racism was very
prevalent and witnessed by the majority of our walkers as we progressed across
We also want our own Aboriginal Mothers Center Society to
help us protect our vulnerable young mothers and children. This center would
offer basic services for young mothers and their children who need to escape
from violent situations. In 2008 was the tenth anniversary of the Aboriginal
Mothers Center Society in Vancouver, BC. This organization provided
approximately 1,700 meals per month, children’s basic needs like diapers,
formula, clothing, basic life skills, cultural training, counseling, resources
and education options to help them get back into a positive lifestyle. This
model was created by Penny Irons and Grace Tait, two First Nations women who truly
believed in saving the young women and children lives from violence by
providing a positive environment for the children of our future generations.
This model also includes a building of emergency housing, affordable housing
and transition housing for those who are leaving abusive relationships. We
believe that if there were spaces such as this available in all communities;
our women would not have to resort to fighting to keep their children with them
and many would not resort to prostitution and addictions The AMCS also help
women and children through the court systems which often stereo types First
Nations women and end up taking away their children and putting them into
government care. At this time the AMCS is barely running due to lack of funding
and are fighting to keep its door open for the families who have utilized this
space for so many years. We would like to see efforts put into providing
centers like this across the nation to keep all women safe in today’s
society.Walk4Justice has secured resolutions throughout the First Nations
leadership to support this initiative.
We also fight for social justice in regards to the over
abundance in homelessness in all major hubs across the nation. Being based in
Vancouver, which is considered one of the best places in Canada to be homeless
because of the warm climate, we have noticed that of the over 2500 homeless
people, 30% are of First Nations. Many are forced out of their communities due
to poverty and go to cities and towns in the hopes of building a better future.
Due to lack of education, affordable housing and resources many end up on the
streets and eventually fall into addictions. We want to provide healing centers
with cultural sensitivity to coincide with the Aboriginal Mothers Center model.
We would also like to provide a healing lodge to the
families and children of the missing and murdered women in every province to
encourage family members that they are not alone. We need a place for the
victim’s children to meet other children and the families who have faced the
same challenges, a place for them to share their stories and heal their pain
together. Our First Nations people have the knowledge and life skills to
survive. We know how to look after our own. We want to hel pour people with our
own skills and to teach our children and grandchildren that we are loved and
valued. We have survived so many attempts of genocide and yet here we are in
2010 fighting the government to stop killing our much valued life givers of
society, the women.
Walkk4Justice has intervener status for the pending public
inquiry of the Robert Pickton victims of which we played a significant role in
demanding this justice for the families. We are also preparing for our fourth
walk which will be from Vancouver, BC to Ottawa June 21, 2011 to September 19, 2011.
Our message this year will be to promote a National Missing and Murdered Women’s
Symposium for October 2011 and a National Missing and Murdered Women’s Public
Inquiry. The families will not rest until there are all our requests for
programs, education and proper public safety nets put in place to protect our
much valued life givers and future generations. The families will not rest
until they receive justice, closure, equality and accountability. Our walks
will continue until justice is served. Donations can be sent to the Union of BC
Indian Chiefs, 500-342 Water Street, Vancouver, BC, re Walk4Justice or deposit
into our Scotia Bank account number 00271-11, transit number 10140.
As a result of the volunteerism we have displayed, Gladys
Radek, the visionary for Walk4Justice has been nominated in CBC TV’s Champion
for Change award. In 2010 she was voted into the top ten and the grand finale
will be announced January 16, 2011, live on CBC TV. It is a humbling experience
because Gladys knows in her heart that it was all the supporters and volunteers
who came forward to realize her dream. People like Bernie Williams, Mable Todd,
Willie Abraham and Aleck Clifton, (our elders), all the walkers and the
hundreds of people who donated money and supplies for the walkers, and the
families who encouraged us to continue the journey. Huge thanks to all the
friends and family members who came forward and shared their stories and
trusting us to speak out for them. Also to all the leaderships who supported us
and ensured we succeeded every walk. We couldn’t have done any of this without
your dedication, volunteerism and much valued support. As a result of the
Champions to Change, Walk4Justice has gained recognition throughout Canada and
International waters. Due to circumstance beyond our control like the weather,
she missed an opportunity to see the Governor General, David Lloyd Johnston.
CBC and Manulife have spoken to him and he has agreed to meet with me
personally in the near future. To us this is an issue that has been resolved
and I will keep everyone informed of the meeting.
Thank you everyone for your kind donations, support, love
and prayers for the families. Together we are making a difference and one day
soon all women will be safe in Canadian society.
Much Respect to all,