Last week I picked up a hitchhiker.
This in itself was not abnormal.
When I was living outside of Vanderhoof, I would often give rides to people from Stoney Creek on my way to town.
The abnormal thing was it was a young woman, probably around 18 years old, and she was First Nations.
It was just outside of Prince George, and the young woman, named Darcy, was going to Terrace. She had come all the way from Vernon.
She didn’t know it was the “Highway of Tears” she was now on.
She also didn’t have a plan for when it got dark, which it was doing just as we got to Vanderhoof.
Now some people might think women are foolish for hitching by themselves, and I have even heard people suggest “you’re practically asking for it” by doing this.
Whatever “it” is.
Sexual exploitation, sexual assault, death?
No these women aren’t.
How do I know that?
I was one.
As a young woman, I also hitchhiked.
I was that foolish.
But at the time, I just wanted to get places and didn’t think being a woman should stop me.
No one was going to drive me, so it was hitch or stay where I was.
Sometimes where a person is isn’t all that safe either.
And what other options did Darcy have really?
She didn’t have any money, and even if she did, the bus system in the northwest is inconvenient and the connections are poor, like in most of rural B.C.
So she should be forced to stay home because of the lack of transportation and the sick and predatory nature of some men?
Perhaps she would be better off, but when you are young, adventure usually seems worth the risk. It did for me. Probably the youth-associated illness of “it will never happen to me” also had something to do with it.
I came out unscathed, if a little smarter and wiser.
I only hope Darcy is as lucky.
It makes me want to help other young women trying simply to get around in northwest B.C. or north-central B.C.
If there is anyone out there who knows of a ride-sharing page on Facebook, Craigslist or through local organizations, please let me know.
Maybe one day the governments, First Nations groups, municipalities and communities of these areas will put the safety and welfare of young women amongst their higher priorities and finally work together to provide more options so one day there will no longer be a “Highway of Tears.”