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Missing Persons Act aims to allow police speedier response

Proposed new legislation designed to help police in locating missing persons is a good move forward, says Olds RCMP Staff Sgt. Kevin Morton.Bill 8: The Missing Persons Act is now before the current sitting of the Legislature.

Proposed new legislation designed to help police in locating missing persons is a good move forward, says Olds RCMP Staff Sgt. Kevin Morton.Bill 8: The Missing Persons Act is now before the current sitting of the Legislature.ìIn many cases, the agencies that have information when we start looking for somebody who we believe might be at risk are very helpful, but this would certainly speed things up,î said Morton. ìIt will encourage people to take part and assist us.ìThe struggle we have today is that we are asking many companies to act in good faith and they can say no. So this will in fact enhance our ability to collect information. There is going to be some obligation on these people to provide us with information if we ask.ìWe still need to respect the fact that there are still some people who intentionally disappear and when we locate them we may never tell people where they are, other than to say they are safe.îCurrently, personal information such as banking and telecommunication records that could be useful in missing persons cases is only available to police investigators if they believe a crime has been committed. Under the new legislation, police would be able to obtain the information in any missing persons case.The proposed legislation will balance fundamental privacy rights with access to personal information, said Justice Minister Verlyn Olson.ìThe inability to access information where no crime is suspected can stall or halt missing persons investigations,î said Olson. ìThis Act will allow police to obtain the information they need to solve these cases before they go cold.îRecords and information collected under the legislation must be kept separate from other police agency records, he said.Staff Sgt. Morton says being able to access more information will allow police to more quickly determine if a person is in trouble or if he or she has in fact deliberately become unavailable.ìThere could very easily be someone from Olds or Sundre or Didsbury or wherever who one day wants to pick up and disappear, and that's the person that would complain when we found them later that somebody had released information potentially,î said Morton.ìOn the other hand people go missing in our areas on a regular basis. We have the campers, the hikers, the hunters. If someone is out in the mountains and walks away from their vehicle, I don't know whether they simply walked out of their life or whether they are in fact missing in that area. As a search manager those are things I start looking at.îThe new legislation will also help better protect the individual or group that provides the information.ìIf you are a government agency, for example, and you have a piece of information about where someone is and you gave it to me in good faith, because we felt that this person was at risk, and then we find out that they weren't, then they (the missing person) could be upset about that,î he said.ìThat's not the norm, but it does happen. Sometimes they respect what we were doing and sometimes they aren't happy about it and then the people who released the information take the heat. So this legislation would protect them (people who give the information) from that.îIn emergency situations, when the police believe a missing person may be at risk of harm or death, police can already issue a demand for a specified list of records that are urgently needed to locate a missing person.ìThis legislation will provide another tool for investigators to bring these cases to a quick and positive outcome,î said George VanderBurg, MLA for Whitecourt-Ste. Anne, who introduced the bill.A year ago the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police passed a resolution asking the provincial government to develop enhanced missing persons legislation. The new act is the government response to that resolution.





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