Full cellular service will soon come to the Highway of Tears

Joshua Azizi
04/07/2021


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Complete cellular coverage is coming soon to all parts of Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert -- a route also known as the Highway of Tears.

The federal and provincial governments are providing Rogers Communications with a total of 4.5 million dollars to help cover the 11.6 million dollar cost of installing 12 new cellular towers. These towers will be placed in the remaining areas of the highway -- between Prince Rupert and Smithers -- where cell service is often weak or absent. 

"No longer will people need to worry about having car trouble and not being able to call for help, or have that feeling of being alone, in need of help, and not being able to call anyone," said B.C. Minister of Citizens' Services Lisa Beare. "No one should have to experience that."

Addressing gaps in cell service along the highway was one of 33 recommendations from the 2006 Highway of Tears Symposium Report aimed at improving safety for Indigenous women and girls. Advocates estimate that over 40 women have gone missing or been murdered along the highway, many of whom were Indigenous.

Federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennet says expanding cellular service will improve their safety.

"A reliable connection means indigenous women can reach loved ones or emergency services when they need it most. Whether its sending a quick text letting a family member know that they've arrived somewhere safely or calling 911 in a threatening situation, a cell signal is an important lifeline when you're on the road, especially in rural and remote parts of your province and our country."

At the press conference announcing the news today, North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice said she was reminded of her friend Marlene Swift, an advocate for safety along the Highway of Tears who was sexually assaulted on the highway herself. Sadly, Swift passed away in 2019.

"She would be so thrilled for today's announcement, just like I'm thrilled to be a part of today's announcement."

Gladys Radek, a longtime advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, described the news as "fabulous."

"If a girl or a boy or a man or a woman is stuck out on the highway, they need to have some way of contacting somebody to let them know that they're stuck. Or in the case that they've been abducted or anything, there's a good chance they could give a location."

The project is expected to be completed in October 2022.

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