Dear Premier Clark:
We were extremely shocked, alarmed and deeply offended to learn that BC government employees deleted emails regarding a request made to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for records relating to a meeting about missing women along the Highway of Tears (Highway 16) in northern BC.
As you are aware, Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham reviewed the allegations and produced a scathing report finding that the BC Government regularly violates a key provision of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act that requires public bodies to respond to access to information requests “openly, accurately and completely” and without delay. Her report concludes that such sweeping violations have resulted in a serious erosion of the integrity of BC’s access to information process.
We cannot overstate the emotional impact of the actions by your government in deleting these emails, and the erosion of public trust. The family members and communities of the women and girls who have gone missing along the Highway of Tears have been clear in their calls for provincial action to address the crisis, and instead of doing so, your government has actively refused to respond to a related request. We are extremely concerned that despite your commitment to open government, these actions by your government limiting access to information reflect contempt for the law and for the public. The right to full access to information from public bodies in BC is integral to Indigenous Peoples’ demands for and pursuit of justice, including justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and families struggling with missing mothers, sisters and daughters.
Once again, we remind you that there are numerous clear recommendations to take meaningful action to provide adequate and safe transportation along the Highway of Tears from agencies including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry, and the Highway of Tears Symposium. BC’s failure to act in response to these recommendations puts the safety of Indigenous women and girls, and all women and girls traveling along the highway at risk and is in neglect of its duty to take every reasonable effort to ensure the safety of all women and girls.
We are calling on you to immediately provide a formal apology to the family members of women and girls who have gone missing from the Highway of Tears for the willful destruction of related emails by your government. We also demand that you fully implement the recommendations from Privacy Commissioner Denham’s report. Given the urgency of this situation, we look forward to your prompt response.
On behalf of the UNION OF BC INDIAN CHIEFS
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President
Chief Robert Chamberlin, Vice-President
Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer
CC: Honourable Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure
John Horgan, Leader of the Opposition
Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Carrier Sekani Family Services
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council
BC Assembly of First Nations
First Nations Summit