Rhonda Lee McIsaac —
Kura sniffed at the letter held by her human, Brett Merchant. It was an official letter from the First Nations Summit Political Executive inviting both of them for lunch to acknowledge their successful walk in honour of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Kura, Merchant’s half-Siberian Husky, half-wolf would be travelling to Musqueam territory.
First Nations Summit Political Executive member Cheryl Casimer; from the Ktunaxa Nation, who resides in ?aqam St. Mary’s Band near Cranbrook, BC brought forward Brett Merchant’s work to the table for this recognition.
In the Musqueam Community Recreation Centre, on February 9, Merchant stood in front of the assembled chiefs and delegates to be acknowledged for his successful walk, which raised awareness around the Highway of Tears and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“I’m overwhelmed and honoured for Kura and myself to be attending the First Nations Summit,” Merchant said via Messenger.
Merchant and Kura walked 1236 km from the Welcome to BC sign at the Alberta/ BC border to Haida Gwaii this past fall.
“I see that part of the transit is started,” he said, adding that he’d probably spend the money he had raised to buy tickets for those who cannot afford it otherwise.
Bus service between Moricetown and Smithers started running six days a week in January after extensive lobbying efforts by government and First Nations leaders and Carrier Sekani Family Services and northern mayors and municipal councils including the Town of Smithers.
Mayor Taylor Bachrach recounts how Smithers came to support bus services for Highway 16 in 2012.
“Our council attended the annual Ramona Wilson Memorial Walk and became aware of the final report of the 2006 Highway of Tears Symposium. That fall, we put forward a resolution calling for bus service and had it passed by the Union of BC Municipalities. The resolution was later picked up by Wally Oppal in his inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women and highlighted in his final report. In 2015, nine years after the Highway of Tears symposium, the BC government announced its Highway 16 Action Plan, with funding to support expanded transit between communities from Prince George to Prince Rupert” Bachrach stated.
What’s next for Merchant and Kura? Merchant suffers with SLE Lupus, early onset dementia and diabetes and he says he will getting some much-needed care. But he still wants to walk and raise awareness, though “I’m going ride the road this year. I also hope to walk more in the next few years depending on my strength,” he said.