After discovering there is no memorial to honour the missing and murdered Indigenous women of the Skeena Valley, the Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC) of Terrace have decided to take action.
“[A memorial] is missing all along Highway 16 and we want to bring some attention to this problem,” said Thomas Lecky, a Grade-12 student at Caledonia Secondary School during a YVC meeting last Thursday.
YVC is a network of affiliated organizations in the U.S. and Canada that create team-based volunteer opportunities for youth. Established last year, the group in Terrace is open to teenagers between 11 to 18 years old and is the second YVC group in Canada.
Current plans for the memorial include a sunken garden and totem-pole monument, which will be maintained by YVC and Volunteer Terrace after its completion. Through conversations with advocates and families affected by the crisis, the teenagers said they understood the importance of giving the community a permanent place to honour the missing and murdered.
“This is the first big project that we want to focus on for years to come,” Lecky said.
“All the people that have been affected by it now, in the past and in the future, it will be here for a long time and will serve as a reminder for all the people who have been lost.”
The group had their first meeting for the project on June 1, in which the Kermode Friendship Centre, Terrace RCMP and the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) were present. The memorial has also gained support from the National Inquiry for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and MP Nathan Cullen, with verbal support from the City of Terrace.
“The whole point of [YVC] is really to get the youth involved with the community and to learn, not just about volunteering, but how to interact with organizations,” Lecky said, who also wrote a grant on behalf of YVC to help fund the memorial.
While the location is still undetermined, the teenagers have been working diligently to find the memorial a home. The sunken garden and monument might be placed on available city-owned land, but nothing has been committed yet, according to 19-year old Hazel McDaniel, YVC team leader.
“City property in front of the superstore next to Kondolas Furniture is what has been discussed,” McDaniel said.
Canadian filmmaker Matt Smiley also donated a screening of his award-winning documentary Highway of Tears for the memorial’s first fundraiser on June 9 at the REM Lee Theatre, followed with a panel discussion.
On the panel was local advocate Gladys Radek, who’s niece Tamara Chipman remains missing after 13-years, former BC Liberal candidate for the Stikine riding Wanda Good, who has been an advocate for 20 years after the disappearance of her cousin Lana Derrick, and Doug Leslie, father to 15-year-old Loren Leslie, whose body was found eight years ago in Vanderhoof, B.C.
While there were fewer than 20 people in attendance, YVC members voiced their questions to the panel to gain a better understanding of the crisis.
“I thought it was wonderful, I was really, really happy with the way that it went,” McDaniel said of the fundraising event. “I thought the panel discussion was excellent, appropriate and respectful.”
Afterwards, YVC member Elijah Stephens, 18, introduced the music video for The Highway, a ballad he helped write last year with seven other students from ‘Na Aksa Gyilak’yoo School in Kitsumkalum First Nation.
In the coming weeks, Terrace YVC will be reaching out to northwest First Nations communities and organizations like the Native Women’s Association of Canada to make sure they are aware and kept in the loop about the project.
“This is going to be a really big deal, not only for Terrace but for B.C. and hopefully for Canada as a whole to really have a monument to recognize what’s happened,” McDaniel said.
“This affects so many people in the north, and we want our whole process to emulate the seriousness of it.”