Manitoba creates new provincewide approach for finding missing people

The Manitoba Government says it’s spending $2.1 million to create a provincewide missing persons response unit.

The Manitoba Integrated Missing Persons Response unit will allow for information exchange between the Manitoba RCMP, Winnipeg Police Services, and Child and Family Services as well as Indigenous advocacy groups including the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO).

“Investing in this integrated unit prioritizes the wellbeing of Manitobans who are harmed by violence through dedicated integrated resources, to investigate and address the issues such as child abuse and exploitation, human trafficking and chronically missing persons,” says Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen.

The money comes from the justice department’s $52 million Violent Crime Strategy budget.

Winnipeg Police Service chief, Danny Smyth says the unit will have a focus on two key areas where people are most vulnerable.

“One of them is when people are transitioning to Winnipeg, often from remote communities or rural communities […] but they’re not used to the dangers and the harms that can come with the city and they become vulnerable,” says Smyth.

“The other area that we see a focus on is we have quite a number of children that are in care and often they’re housed in group homes here in the city and have a tendency to take off from those group homes.”

The Manitoba government says that establishing the unit “aligns directly with several recommendations of the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.”

Heidi Spence, the MMIWG liason for MKO, says the move will better assist rural and remote communities throughout the province.

“[At the MKO’s MMIWG Liason Unit] we often hear and support families of loved ones who go missing from, you know, our communities in the north and in the south,” says Spence. “Sometimes we have information that they may be in a large urban setting like Winnipeg”

According to the Manitoba RCMP, there are an average of 10 missing persons reports a day in the province.

He says that in 2022, over half of those came into northern detachments.

Spence says the provincewide approach will help connect these communities with more resources.

“It’s going to help with the resources and better communication to be able to give answers to the families and the loved ones of our women, girls, and 2slgbtq people that are missing in the province.”

Goertzen points out that the province’s capital has its own high rates of missing persons.

He says that in Winnipeg alone last year there were 9,315 missing person incidents reported.

“That’s 25 missing persons each and every day, that’s more than one an hour,” says Goertzen.

Goertzen says that police and CFS will have room within the response unit to make sure plans are in place for youth in care who go missing.

“In 2021, 63 per cent of missing children were runaway girls. It is entirely unacceptable and we must do more to intervene to protect children and families and ensure the safety of young people,” he says.

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