Highway of Tears


Since the late 1960s, at least eighteen young women — many of them from disadvantaged First Nations communities — have disappeared or been found murdered along the 724-kilometre stretch of Highway 16 in northern British Columbia. None of these cold cases were ever solved until 2012, when a special RCMP investigation was able to link DNA from one of the murder victims to deceased US criminal Bobby Jack Fowler; but this single answer has done little to heal the wounds of Aboriginal communities who have seen dozens of their young women vanish along the "Highway of Tears," victims not only of murderous predators but of the systemic racism of a federal government that keeps them trapped on impoverished reservations and, as critics charge, evinced little interest in apprehending their killers. Narrated by Nathan Fillion, Matt Smiley's hard-hitting documentary Highway of Tears not only movingly relates the personal stories of the victims, but investigates how the legacy of generational poverty, high unemployment and endemic violence in their communities contributed to their tragic fates — and how contemporary First Nations leaders are striving to cure those ills.
  • "Highway of Tears" now available on Netflix Canada / VHX (world)

    Jul 07, 2016 / Matt Smiley

    Dear Highway of Tears Supporters:

    It is with great pleasure that I announced we've released 'Highway of Tears' in Canada on Netflix. Our goal was to get the documentary out on the largest platforms in order to give you the most viewing options possible. Many of you are current Netflix subscribers and have been sending messages to ask us to have the documentary available on that platform. The wait is now over.

    For those of you that have already viewed the film on VHX and/or Vimeo On Demand, thank you so much for your support. It has been a long journey to get to the point and we will continue pushing to get the story out to as many people as possible to ensure the dialogue of missing and murdered women continues, not only in Canada, but all over the world. 

    We are very pleased with the Canadian government's commitment to investigating the root causes of violence against all women and their willingness to take action with the public's support. There is still a long road to travel. There are still women and girls going missing and getting murdered in various communities. There is still a lack of funding for safe & affordable transportation. With every win, comes a loss. While the B.C. government recently announced it would be providing an extra $1 million to run the bus service and the federal government committing to contribute $1 million to fund bus shelters, there is still a dark cloud looming over Greyhound Canada's announcement that they may discontinue service along Highway 16 in response to the government offering a subsidized alternative. 

    It is our hope that the more people we make aware of these issues, the closer we will get to finding solutions. We must all work together. 

    If you have not had a chance to see our documentary, I encourage you to watch it. If you live in Canada and have a Netflix account, you can always give it a try. If you live in the United States, or anywhere else in the world, the VHX platform is always there for you. 

    And if for whatever reason, you wish to watch the film, but do not have access to a Netflix account, or the means to rent or buy the film on VHX, feel free to send us a direct message on our Official Facebook page. We will provide you with a free screening code until the end of July. 

    Once again, on behalf of myself and the Highway of Tears production, thank you for your support in watching our documentary and for all your efforts to bring up this subject with friends and your communities. 

    Best wishes,



    Nov 06, 2015 / Matt Smiley

    The elections are over. Now is the time for change. I wanted thank all our 40,000+ supporters for your signatures. Your actions have resulted in 3 party leaders acknowledging our petition and responding favorably.

    Please join me in thanking our newly elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, Tom Mulcair and Elizabeth May for their responses to this petition for a Federal Act to End Violence Against Aboriginal Women in Canada. It is a huge leap forward to know that we now have a government in place that will make efforts to prevent violence against women and that the issue is on their ‘radar’.  We cannot stop here. We must continue to push forward to ensure the government keeps the promises they made during the elections. I want to know that promises will be followed through with actions. You can be certain that in the coming weeks, various organizations will be pushing for the Liberal government to follow through with their commitment to launching the national inquiry. Mary Teegee and I are pushing for a law to ensure there are much needed resources to fund the recommendations and action items that will surely come from the national inquiry. We are asking for legislation to make protecting aboriginal women and girls the law in this country. In the spirit of truth and reconciliation - there is new hope in our country to forge a new strong and positive relationship with the Government of Canada - the Federal Act would be a step toward rebuilding a Canada we will all be proud to be a part of. 

    The Act will very much mirror the Office of Violence Against Women Act Vice-President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama have committed to strengthening in the United States. Within their Act, police officers and prosecutors get special training on domestic violence and more shelters are opening throughout the country. It is important for all Canadians to be aware of how serious this problem is and how we can all work together to prevent further acts of violence against women, especially aboriginal women and girls, who are disproportionately targeted.

    These acts of violence affect much more than just the victims. They assault our families and communities throughout the country. We must do more to hold ourselves accountable for the lives we lose on our watch. 

    The process of creating the Act will take some time, but we are 100% committed to making it happen. We owe it to our women and girls.


    Oct 12, 2015 / Matt Smiley

    Dear Friends and Supporters! 

    Exclusive to VHX, we are offering a PAY WHAT YOU WANT option on the film between now and October 19th. We hope everyone that watches turns out to vote for the Canadian elections. For those of you watching the film outside of Canada, thank you for your support. Please do not shy away from letting the future Canadian leaders what you think of how the current government is treating the issue of missing and murdered women on social media. The more pressure we put on them, the better our chances of getting them to take action!  

    There are still tickets available for our October 26th screening at the Bloor Cinema in Toronto for a Reel Perspectives night hosted by The Globe and Mail & Hot Docs. 

    For tickets, click on this link: 


    In case you missed it, Highway of Tears was front and center in the news this past week with several Conservative MPs casting the blame on women. Read the Huffington Post's article on MP Bob Zimmer's comments that got him in hot water: 


    "One of the major drivers of missing and murdered aboriginal women is lack of economic activity or, simply put, a lack of a job." - Bob Zimmer MP


    Oct 09, 2015 / Matt Smiley

    We have been battling the Harper government for long enough. It has been a blessing to have the NDP, Green Party and the Liberals all in favor of launching a national inquiry in Canada. While the Harper government claims enough studies have been done, the actual figures produced by various NGOs are proof enough that we need to continue studying the root causes more in order to take action. Yes, immediate action is needed in many areas, but we cannot stop learning why some of these acts of violence are happening. That is an ongoing process. 

    It is one of our goals to launch a campaign to get safe and affordable transportation in northern B.C. It has long been a fact that women and girls have been put at risk due to the lack of public transportation. This must and will stop. 

    When you watch the film, please do not shy away from writing us on our website to tell us your thoughts on the project or share your ideas on what you think needs to be done in order to have public transportation in the north. Just two days ago (Oct. 7), another article came out on CBC about the lack of public transport:

    "Passenger transportation in this region is the worst it has ever been probably in decades and it will probably get worse," said Bachrach.

    Your support for our film means the world to us. We're overjoyed that Hot Docs and The Globe and Mail will be hosting a Reel Perspectives screening in Toronto on October 26, 2015. If you live in Toronto, I highly suggest you attend, as there will be a great Q&A hosted by The Globe's David Walmsley.

    If you haven't had a chance, please take a moment to sign our petition on Change.org. Your support in pushing the government to make Federal Act a reality is greatly appreciated. 

    Wishing you all the best,

    Matt (& the Highway of Tears production team) 


    Aug 27, 2015 / Matt Smiley

    Like many people, I’ve lost loved ones in my life. Sadly, the few that I really looked up to were taken away far too soon, but my memory of them remains strong. They’ve all helped shape the person I am now and the person I strive to become. 

    Three years ago, I heard a story about missing women when I visited my sister over the summer in Canada.  In that moment, my life changed forever -- the plight of these women and their families became something I wanted to expose and share with the world.  Although my fears kept telling me that I couldn't do it and that I should quit, I trusted my gut and didn't let anything stop me from exposing an issue which I believe is one of the most harrowing dilemmas of our time:  violence against women.   

    The triggering moment for me in sharing this story was the photo I saw yesterday morning of two police officers participating in a mile-long walk in women’s shoes, honoring missing and murdered women across Canada and around the world.  It moved me to tears.  I think back at all the efforts I put into raising awareness about these cases in the hopes that other people would care, too.  Three years in, I still find myself battling depression over the notion that not enough people care to really understand what is happening.  Women and girls (& also young men) are being murdered.   

    For the most part, no one is really paying attention.  We’re far too busy to let it register and most people don't know how they can help.  I can’t tell you how disgusting I found Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s comments in December 2014, regarding the issue of missing & murdered women:  "It's not really on my radar."  It really sets the tone for the level of seriousness behind domestic policy in Canada, the United States, Mexico, and many other countries around the world, where  government's aren't doing enough to protect women against violence.  I can’t even begin to count the families I’ve met over the last few years that have lost mothers, sisters, and daughters.  It destroys families for generations!  

    As I finalize my task list for HIGHWAY OF TEARS to be distributed on more platforms and schedule a few more public screenings in Canada and abroad for October, frustration continues to build from what I feel is a lack of interest about this issue.  It is our public duty to protect each other, especially the most vulnerable among us.  

    This photo gives me hope.  We are beginning to understand what it feels like to "walk a mile in her shoes." People are starting to stand up and speak out about violence against women.  More importantly, men are doing it.  They are making history before our very eyes.  These two police officers are my heroes today... 

    Thank you for permission to use the photo Lisa!