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RCMP Raises Concerns Over Clauses in New Missing Persons Bill

The GNWT’s Social Development Committee recently held a publicly available meeting with an RCMP representative at the Legislative Assembly to discuss potential changes to be made to the upcoming Missing Persons Act.

The Bill was first tabled in the Legislative Assembly on February 26th, and since then, the Social Development Committee has been looking through the proposal for anything that may need changing. As the NWT does not currently have any legislation that specifically deals with missing persons, the new Bill is being greatly considered on many different factors, and Superintendent Dyson Smith from the RCMP was present to voice some concerns that had been raised.

Superintendent Smith works as the Criminal Operations Officer with the RCMP, and was even involved in consultation for the original draft of the Missing Persons Act. During his discussions, Smith explained some of the things that RCMP already do to locate a missing individual.

During their information gathering process, RCMP officers will make use of both national databases that are available to police, as well as the social media presence of the missing individual and their immediate social circle. Given the nature of the investigations, officers will look into any and all rumours they hear about the subject and conduct search and rescue on the ground and on the water when necessary. On more rare occasions, police will even use banking and cell phone information to help find an individual. This would be little more than when and where purchases are made, and the GPS location of the cell phone.

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Officers will also connect with police stations in other parts of the country to see if any other officers have seen the person they are looking for.

The Superintendent’s concerns were with three specific Clauses in the Bill: 7(4), 8(3), and 9(4). Each of these clauses are in relation to whether or not the police will be given authority by a justice to carry out certain search procedures in the event that the missing person does not want to be found, including cases where the individual may be fleeing from an environment of domestic violence. The concern is that these Clauses have the potential to be obstructive to police work, who have a legal obligation to find any and all missing people, regardless of their situation. Superintendent Smith reassured the Members that in the interest of the safety of the missing person, the whereabouts of the individual will not be made public, only the fact that they were found safely.

The Superintendent made sure to state that he supports the Bill overall, but would simply like these Clauses to be addressed.

“The Bill itself doesn’t slow down the process, and there’s no factual or concrete belief that the Clauses that I highlighted would actually slow anything down, it just has the potential. From my perspective, anything that has the potential of slowing down or hindering our ability to move efficiently and expeditiously through an investigation could be problematic at some point.”

When asked whether or not he would like to see these Clauses either re-worded or removed from the Bill entirely, he said that he would leave it to the Legislators.

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“From a police standpoint, we would just be looking for any adjustments that would prevent any potential roadblocks.”

Bill 2: Missing Persons Act will be having another public meeting on April 9th in Aklavik.

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