Highway Of Tears
In 2005 Canada’s national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), established PROJECT E-PANA dedicated to investigating unsolved murders along the 700 kilometre stretch of highway 16 in northern British Columbia. E-PANA concluded that from 1969 to 2006, 18 women have disappeared or been murdered on or around the highway. To make the list the victim had to be engaged in a high risk activity, such as hitchhiking or prostitution, and their body had to be found within a mile of the highway. Thirteen of the women are teenagers and 10 of the 18 are First Nations. 1 –Lori Culbert and Neal Hall, “Vanishing point: The highway murders
A 2009 investigative series by the Vancouver Sun newspaper identified 15 other cases bearing similarities to the Highway of Tears victims.
Public perception about PROJECT E-PANA’s efforts was tainted by the RCMP and Vancouver Police Department’s failure in the Robert Pickton case. From January 23 1997 to February 5 2002, sixty-seven women were murdered or disappeared from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Pickton was originally charged with 27 counts of first degree murder and eventually convicted on six counts of second degree murder.
According to Bob Cooper, former member of the Vancouver Police Department’s homicide and Major Crimes Unit, who received the original list of missing women from the Downtown Eastside that began the investigation that lead to Pickton’s capture, explains how one of the difficulties faced by the Pickton investigation was a surplus of viable suspects, “ the problem was they had a whole bunch of other great suspects; guys that they had just as much on, as they did on Pickton”.
From 1978 to 2013, there were over 100 unsolved murders of sex workers in British Columbia.
In 2011 PROJECT E-PANA was officially closed. As of September 2015 the Vancouver Police Department does not have any officers dedicated to investigating unsolved homicides of sex trade.