Privacy Commissioner slams Province for deleting emails regarding Highway of Tears

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The “Highway of Tears” murder story, one the biggest tragedies in the history of this region along a 450 mile stretch of Highway 16 is back in the news headlines.

It involves more than four decades of unsolved deaths and disappearances of young women from Prince George to Prince Rupert between 1969 and 2011.

While police list the number of victims, at nineteen, aboriginal organization estimates, include women who disappeared greater distances from the highway, and they run into the forties.

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Among them was an 18-year-old Hudson’s Hope victim, who was last seen in 1970 by two other women, who gave her a ride, and then dropped her off, at the gates of Tompkins Ranch, between Fort St. John and Hudson’s Hope.

Now, BC’s Privacy Commissioner has handed over a file to the RCMP after a former government staffer admitted to triple deletion last November of government emails requested under Freedom of Information related to the Highway of Tears case.

Elizabeth Denham launched her investigation after former Ministry of Transportation staffer Tim Duncan alleged his colleague George Gretes grabbed his computer keyboard and deleted the emails.

Duncan spoke with CKNW’s Shelby Thom.

Commissioner Denham says Gretes lied under oath but later admitted, he did in fact, “on occasion,” triple delete emails, and has resigned as an assistant to the Transportation Minister.

That’s resulted in predictable reactions from the relatives of Highway of Tears victims and we now hear in order from Gladys Radek, an aunt of a 22-year-old woman who went missing while hitch hiking near Prince Rupert in 2005 – and Tribal Chief Terry Teegee with the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council who lost a cousin along Highway 16 more than 20 years ago.

Commissioner Denham reportedly also found breaches in both the Ministry of Advanced Education and the Premier’s office, and has handed over a file to the RCMP.

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That’s led to opposition criticism that her report has exposed a culture of deception within the Liberal government, and this is NDP Freedom of Information Critic, Doug Routley:

For her part Premier Clark responded to the report during a visit to Merritt on Friday at the official opening of a new trades training building, promising to embrace all of the recommendations in the Commissioner’s report.

Courtesy of CHNL, here’s part of what she said:

Although she’s called in Loukadelis to help right the government ship, the Premier has refused to consider calls for the resignation of Technology Minister Amrik Virk.

There’s also speculation her response may very well have been worded to ward off challenges presented by her remarks in 2011 from a video on the Province of BC’s YouTube account.

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Here’s what she said then:

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