Former RCMP employee turned private eye Ray Michalko has spent hundreds of hours investigating cases of missing and murdered women along the infamous Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert in British Columbia. That stretch of highway is also know as "The Highway of Tears" due to those countless unsolved cases, which mostly involve violence perpetrated against Indigenous women.
Eventually Milchalko's former employer threatened legal action against against the private investigator if his work investigating MMIW continued. His commitment to discovering the truth about the Highway of Tears, however, never waned. He took the title of his book on the subject, Obstruction of Justice: The Search for Truth on Canada's Highway of Tears (Red Deer Press) from the very charges he was threatened with by the RCMP.
Today we speak to Ray about his book, its evocative title, and the ongoing struggles to bring attention and focus to the MMIW inquiry.
He tells us about his experiences with the RCMP, what he learned from Sun Tzu, and why the sequel to Obstruction of Justice will take him to Costa Rica.
Tell us about the title of your newest book and how you came to it.
In retrospect, the title of my book, Obstruction of Justice: The Search for Truth on Canada’s Highway of Tears, couldn’t have been any other title.
After spending hundreds of hours of my time conducting a pro bono investigation into the missing and murdered women’s unsolved, decades old, cases along the Highway of Tears, my old employer, Canada’s Federal Police Force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, threatened to charge me with “Obstruction of Justice” under the Criminal Code of Canada, to discourage further investigation.
It never occurred to them how ludicrous that was, considering some of their senior members could be accused of obstructing justice by failing to provide the necessary funding and support to help their investigators arrive at a successful conclusion to some of these cases.
Nor did it occur to them that those same senior members obstructed justice by failing to ensure that these case’s details were entered in the RCMP computer program, the Violent Crime Linkage System (ViCLAS). A crime fighting program that they sell licenses for use to police forces around the world.
What, in your opinion, is most important function of a title?
A book’s title has to provoke my curiosity enough to make me want to find out more about the book.
What is your favorite title that you've ever come up with and why? (For any kind of piece, short or long.)
Obstruction of Justice, it just fits and, if for no other reason, it is the title of my first book.
What about your favorite title as a reader, from someone else's work?
My favorite title of someone’s else’s work is The Art of War by Sun Tzu, written around 500 B.C. The Art of War’s teachings as they apply to real life, point out several concepts that are applicable to my involvement in this investigation and subsequent police interaction.
For instance, Sun Tzu writes that, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity” and “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” The RCMP never considered Sun Tzu’s teachings when they decided to go to war with me by threating and attempting to discredit me, consequently, the greatest victory for me required no battle because I won the fight without going to war with them.
Did you consider any other titles for your current book and if so what were they? Why did you decide to go with the title you eventually picked?
The only other title I considered was, The Highway of Tears, and I incorporated it into the title.
What are you working on now?
I am currently working on a fiction sequel to Obstruction of Justice titled Tico Justice, which involves my investigation into the disappearance of a teenage girl from her home in northern Cost Rica.
Because of the publicity my ten-year pro bono investigation and subsequent publication of my non-fiction novel regarding the “Highway of Tears”, I am hired by the teenager’s father, a well known, politically connected business man, and cattle rancher in Costa Rica. What neither Costa Rican’s nor I knew, was that behind the normal activity of a very busy, successful business man, he was also an associate of the very powerful, Mexican Sinaloa Drug Cartel.
My goal with Tico Justice is to attempt to accomplish what English writer, Virginia Wolf was proposing when she said, “Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible.”
Ray Michalko is an ex-member of the RCMP who now works as a licensed Private Investigator in British Columbia. Ray has spent over nine years working pro bono on the Highway of Tears cases all the while gaining the trust and respect of victims' families and the scattered communities that have been impacted by these crimes.