Brett Merchant and his dog Kura

A man and his dog walk across B.C. for victims of the Highway of Tears

Brett Merchant is dedicating every step of a 1,236 km walk across B.C. to young people who were murdered or went missing along Highway 16.

Brett Merchant is dedicating every footfall of a 1,236 km walk across B.C. to young people who were murdered or went missing along Highway 16.

Rather than only walk the stretch of the Yellowhead Highway between Prince George and Prince Rupert the section known as the Highway of Tears Merchant decided to start from the B.C.-Alberta border and trek all the way to the highway’s end in Old Massett.

On Wednesday, Oct. 19, Merchant’s walk was delayed at the 85 km sign outside of Prince Rupert due to complications in his knee and ankle. He visited a doctor and will rest for a week before continuing on.

“I don’t want to quit,” said Merchant. “It’s getting sad to come to the end.”

Merchant faces health issues lupus, early onset of dementia, and diabetes but that has driven him even more.

“Over time I just wanted to do something because I’m getting older and sicker and I heard of the Highway of Tears,” he said, speaking inside the Prestige Prince Rupert Hotel lobby where he was put up free of charge for a couple nights.

Merchant got the final push he needed after watching a Highway of Tears documentary on Netflix.

“The day I saw that, probably within six weeks I’m on the road,” he said.

Most of Merchant’s nights have been spent in a tent with his dog Kura, a half-Siberian Husky half-wolf. Friends drove the two from their assisted living home in Kimberley to the “Welcome to B.C.” sign near Jasper. On Sept. 1, they started walking.

His sister, Cheryl Magis, was concerned about her brother’s plan but he brought a GPS spot with him so the family can see where he is every day.

“What can you do he was going if I said ‘no.’ You can’t stop somebody if that’s their dream. You have to let them do it. All we were hoping was that he was safe,” said Magis, speaking by phone from Cranbrook. Magis said she has been impressed with how far he’s been able to go in his condition, and in such a short period of time.

Every place they have walked through has been welcoming and Merchant said it’s been difficult to leave.

He doesn’t reach out to people, they come to him it’s difficult to miss a man in a fluorescent yellow T-shirt, shorts and a large white half-wolf dog along the highway.

In the Bulkley-Nechako region, 40 people came out on the highway to meet him. An elderly woman showed him a photo of her daughter who had been murdered and he was invited to stay at a resident’s home for the evening. Over his tour he has met with five families whose girls have been murdered, and one family whose son is missing.

Acknowledging and bringing awareness to the Highway of Tears and the families who are suffering from the loss of a loved one is a key component to his mission.

“People just want to be respected as people,” he said.

When Merchant was young, his father owned a shoe store business in Cranbrook. His father used to employ the homeless and vulnerable to do odds and ends at the shop.

“That’s probably where it starts,” Merchant said when asked why he wanted to do the walk.

Merchant expects to catch the ferry to Haida Gwaii on Thursday, Oct. 20 after retracing the steps he lost at the 85 km sign.

“The trip is coming close to an end and it’s making me sad, but the journey will never ever in my whole life end,” he said.


Just Posted

New ultrasound means less travel for medical services

Ultrasound equipment from Prince Rupert Hospital will help restore islands services

Fishing Haida Gwaii: A salmon fisheries collapse is a terrifying thought

By Darrell Oike Haawa for all the fish caught this week. Spring… Continue reading

Haida Gwaii wrestlers make history at B.C. tournament

It was the first time a wrestling team from Haida Gwaii has ever competed in the B.C.-wide tournament

Tribesmen defeat Haida 77-61 in semi-final matchup at 2018 Junior All Native Basketball Tournament

Prince Rupert Tribesmen advance to finals to face Gitmidiik Storm

Vancouver Aquarium’s resident octopus released into ocean

Staff let the Giant Pacific octopus go into the waters near Bowen Island so she can reproduce

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

BREAKING: B.C. mother hit in truck rampage dies

Family confirms mother of four Kelly Sandoval dies almost two months after being hit.

Walking from Argentina to Alaska

Holly ‘Cargo’ Harrison is now in northern B.C. on his journey from Argentina to Alaska.

PHOTOS: Students exhibit stunning paper couture dresses

22 paper made gowns will be on display at Vancouver’s Oakridge Centre until March 27

Fatal crash closes Highway 97 south of Prince George

A two-vehicle crash in the Cariboo has claimed the life of one person and sent another to hospital.

BCHL Today: Prince George avoids elimination with game five win

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Suspect arrested and charged for assault on autistic man

Parmvir Chahil has strong B.C. ties; two others charged with accessory after the fact

Uber self-driving crash video calls safety, rules into question

Experts say footage shows that vehicle’s sensors should have spotted pedestrian, initiated braking

Most Read