Taken: Highway of Tears — Ramona Wilson and Alberta Williams

Episode 2 of Taken features The Highway of Tears; a stretch of Highway 16 located in northern British Columbia. Countless Indigenous women and girls have either gone missing or been murdered, but all have one link: this stretch of highway from Prince Rupert to Prince George. The topography in this area is especially suited for concealment; it is a neverending network of logging roads, ravines and rivers. However, as host Lisa Meeches points out, “these crimes of opportunity are about more than location. They reveal dark underlying truths about society.”

Tonight, Taken focuses on two separate cases from the Highway of Tears: Ramona Wilson and Alberta Williams. Both led happy lives surrounded by family and friends. Their murders devastated their families and in each case, remain unsolved.

Alberta Williams, 24, had been at a local pub on August 15, 1989, with family and friends, celebrating a last night with visiting friends. It was the last time she was seen alive; her body was found a little over month later near the Tyee overpass. She had been strangled and sexually assaulted. In addition to the officers working the case, Alberta’s sister enlisted the aid of private investigator, former RCMP officer Ray Michalko to try and find her sister’s killer

Ramona Wilson, meanwhile, was a well-loved child, active in sports and would often lose herself while composing poetry. On the  evening of June 11, 1994, at the age of 16, Ramona left home to go to a dance with her friends in a neighbouring town. She never arrived. It was not until April 10, 1995—almost a year later—that Ramona’s remains were found with her clothing neatly placed nearby. RCMP staff sergeant  Wayne Clary still believes Ramona’s case is very solvable. Many suspects have been eliminated but to date it remains unsolved.

These two cases highlight a social issue many communities face today: a lack of affordable transportation. How do you get from an isolated community to a neighbouring urban centre? Chief Terry Teegee of Carrier Segani Tribal Council—and cousin of Ramona—reminds us this complicates lives for many. Appointments may be missed, steady employment is difficult, it is hard to attend school, or to even get an adequate education. Due to the remoteness of northern communities, there are fewer opportunities for economic development. This results in a lack of affordable transportation, so many community members resort to hitchhiking despite the danger.

Craig Benjamin of Amnesty International Canada explains further: “The very fact that we are looking at rates of violence seven or eight times higher than all other women and girls in Canada means that this violence does not come from a single source but is pervasive … the very fact that this violence could go on year after year tells us that there is something fundamentally wrong here.”

Once again, I need to repeat, this program is not designed to entertain us, but rather is about sharing information. I do like the way each case has been chosen to highlight larger systemic problems. Many Indigenous communities face these issues that are a direct result of colonizing policy and practices still prevalent in Canada today. I am also very pleased APTN airs each episode twice in each time zone. If you missed it last week, you have the opportunity to see it again the following week.

Viewers are asked to visit the Taken website if they have any information.

Taken airs Fridays at 7 and 7:30 p.m. ET on APTN.