Every year, Northwestern Ontario police forces get inundated with several-hundred calls about people who have gone missing.
Though most of those people are ultimately found safe and sound, police say they still want reports to come in — even when they involve a person who hasn’t been heard from in several years.
“There is no time limit — all missing-person investigations remain open until they are resolved,” a provincial news release said Monday.
“Information about a person who went missing 30 years ago could be the key piece needed to resolve an active case today.”
OPP and Treaty Three Police Service officers are to highlight the importance of information reporting at a workshop today near Kenora at Wabassemoong Independent First Nation.
The second-annual Missing Person Awareness Day also aims to tear down “barriers” that may discourage concerned citizens and family members from making timely reports.
“There are historical misconceptions,” Treaty Three Sgt. Cheryl Gervais said. “People may think that their information isn’t important, or that it’s too old.”
“But it could be the key piece we need (to solve a case),” Gervais said. “The sooner (police receive information) the better.”
So far this year, there have been more than 800 missing-person reports made to OPP detachments across Northwestern Ontario. In 2016, the total was nearly 950.
In both years, most people were found unharmed, sometimes the same day, provincial police said.
In Thunder Bay, about 900 people were reported missing to city police between last September and this August.
The highest amount was reported last September with 97 people. No fewer than 50 were reported per month over the time period.
“It’s fair to say that most people are located safely by police, or friends and organization that will contact police to cancel them as missing,” said Thunder Bay Police Const. Julie Tilbury.
Some missing person cases end tragically, such as the case of 14-year-old Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug resident Josiah Begg. Begg’s body was found in Thunder Bay’s McIntyre River in May, two weeks after he had gone missing while in the city with his father for a medical appointment.
Police haven’t yet said how Begg became separated from his father.
As of mid-July, more than 1,650 people Ontario-wide were reported missing, more than 360 of those to OPP detachments.
At today’s workshop at Wabassemoong, attendees will be given the opportunity to provide information to police about ongoing missing-person cases, as well as provide DNA samples to assist police investigators.
Representatives from the Canadian Centre For Child Protection are also to be on hand. Last year’s inaugural workshop was held at Shoal Lake First Nation.