“With the way things are going nationwide, this was the least we could do.”
Charity and Cameron West of Prince George have been walking across a good portion of Canada for the last five and a half months.
The journey’s purpose has been to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous people (MMIP), raise money for local support across the country, and hear other Indigenous people’s stories and struggles.
“We are changed forever,” Charity told My PG Now. “It has been physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally challenging.”
For most of the journey, one would walk on the highway while the other would follow behind in their truck.
“My feet grew a whole size because they kept swelling, [Cameron] got really sick in Montreal. There are so many times you want to turn around,” she said.
Cameron said every time they started to feel that way, they would check social media and see another person had been reported missing, and they pushed forward.
The married couple just arrived back in Prince George after walking from Canada’s easternmost point – Cape Spear, Newfoundland – to Winnipeg in the last half year.
According to Google Maps, that is 4,806 kilometers.
They then drove for 25 hours from Manitoba back to P.G. on Monday and Tuesday (October 16 and 17), but they aren’t done yet.
It will be a quick turnaround, they will end their journey by walking the highway of tears from Prince Rupert (7,566km from Cape Spear) to Prince George, beginning on Saturday.
That walk is an additional 718 kilometres.
“It is going to be powerful,” Cameron said. “We grew up along the highway of tears, my community is in Burns Lake.”
Both Cameron and Charity have personal ties to the cause.
Cameron said his cousin, Jessica Patrick, was murdered in Smithers in 2018, and Barry Seymour, the father of Charity’s son, went missing in 2012. He was last seen at the Sunrise Trailer Park in Prince George.
“It is personal. It affected us personally. It is not only family, we have lost countless numbers of friends as well,” Cameron said.
“There are lots of people going missing, lots of people being murdered, and a lack of police investigation consistently across the board,” Charity said. “It is countless numbers of friends and family we are losing. We live this every day… there needs to be fundamental changes with the way crimes against Indigenous people are treated.”
She said a main goal of the journey was to start a conversation with non-indigenous communities across Canada, “because all of our Indigenous populations live it, we know what is going on.”
“We did have some non-indigenous people come out and walk. It was great to have them – somewhat frustrating at times because some of them still didn’t understand it, but they took the time to come out and walk five kilometres,” she recalled.
Charity said it is hard when non-indigenous communities seem to have no idea what is happening in their own cities and regions.
“Start engaging in the conversation,” she said. “It is time to have these uncomfortable conversations… it is up to all of us.”
Charity also said she hopes the journey inspires some Indigenous youth across Canada, saying with a laugh “We are just a regular little res couple, you guys can do far more than us.”
Cameron’s cousin, Gary West, will be joining the couple for the last leg of the journey on the highway of tears.
He said the pair’s journey was inspiring and he would have loved to have been a part of the whole thing, but work and life prevented him from going.
They anticipate the final leg will take around two weeks, the trio say anyone who comes across them on the road is welcome and invited to join in the walk.
Anyone who wants to support their cause is being asked to find local organizations that support Indigenous communities to donate to, the Wests are not directly receiving any funds from the trip.
After their journey, the couple said they need to get back to work – “we have bills to catch up on.”