Video: MLA Karagianis and Rice ask about deleted Highway of Tears emails

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J. Rice: The only reason these documents are released is because we fought for them. Last year we requested these documents. In February of this year, after two extensions, we were told they didn’t exist.

They do exist, and what did they tell us? They tell us that communities, First Nations and families of the murdered and missing want public transportation along the Highway of Tears. Does the minister think hiding these documents because they contradicted his spin was the right thing to do? How can this minister explain this?

Hon. T. Stone: First, I would like to correct the member, for the record. The Ministry of Transportation has actually released almost 600 pages of records since 2012. There have been six…. Since 2012 there have been six responsive FOI requests related to Highway 16, three of which represented records which were posted on open gov — some of which date back many, many months. The other three requests were provided directly to the requesters.

This suggestion that there has been any attempt to not provide information is simply not true. Now, I’ve addressed the 36 pages. We agreed with the commissioner’s finding that the scope of that request was too narrow, and we have since disclosed the information.

The important thing here, I think, for people on Highway 16 is that we continue to focus on how we can make this corridor safer. That’s the work that I am pouring myself into. That’s the work that my officials are putting their shoulders into. We’re going to continue to do that important work to make that corridor safer.

Madame Speaker: The member for North Coast on a supplemental.

J. Rice: Communities were clear: they wanted a shuttle bus system. They needed it to be safe, to get groceries, to go to work. The minister tried to say communities didn’t want this. The documents say the complete opposite.

How could the Minister of Transportation get up in this House time after time and have such disregard for First Nations communities, the families of the murdered and missing along the Highway of Tears?

Hon. T. Stone: I’m going to continue to do the work that’s required with communities and First Nations along Highway 16 to identify safer transportation options. This is work that has been underway for a number of years now, and we’ll build upon what is a foundation along Highway 16 that the members opposite choose to ignore.

There is a transit service connecting a number of communities today. That’s because this government invests $1.5 million per year in B.C. Transit service. We invest $2 million per year in the Northern Health bus. We are aggressively continuing to expand cell coverage to make this corridor safer. We are working with First Nations on driver training and education services.

Through this symposium coming up in a few weeks in Smithers, which we’re co-sponsoring with the First Nations Health Authority, there will be more discussion on other strategies to make the corridor safer. This is hard work. This is complex work, but we are committed to doing everything we can to make this corridor as safe as it possibly can be.