A tip has is leading the family of Lorilee Mae Francis to Montreal to search for the woman who hasn’t been seen since October of 2007.
Her family’s search was chronicled as part of the APTN series Taken.
According to the show, Francis was last known to be in Grande Prairie, Alta.
“She’s very happy – she’s a happy person, y’know?” explained Lance Francis, Lorilee’s brother. “She’s very kind. A kind person. A very loveable kind person. Approachable.”
Her family contacted police and filed a missing person’s report when they didn’t hear from her that Christmas.
In the 13 years since Lorilee disappeared, the family says they haven’t received any credible tips as to her whereabouts.
Until two weeks ago.
A stranger reached out to the family through a Facebook page dedicated to Lorilee’s case.
In it, he explained that he encountered a woman from Alberta in Montreal in 2015 whose last name was Francis. They met up several times in different locations across the city.
However, it wasn’t until three years later, while watching the episode of Taken, that the man realized he’d likely crossed paths with Lorilee.
Lance, his brother Lane, and cousins Ryver and Eugene gathered their bearings and headed to Montreal to search on the ground.
Soon after arriving, they received more leads.
“As soon as we got here Sunday night, we got another tip saying they recognized her from the missing poster – they recognized her and she was just here.”
The family swept the Atwater area, near Cabot Square – a known hub for the urban Indigenous population – and areas otherwise frequented by the homeless.
An elderly woman there told the search party she had recently seen the person believed to be Lorilee.
Despite the positive developments, Lane says getting local police to help out is a challenge.
“There is no help – I asked officers on the street here and they weren’t even willing to take her picture. They just walked by,” he explained. “How are we going to find our sister with that help?”
“They’re not helping us,” Ryver added. She says she called the RCMP in Grande Prairie as soon as they got word Lorilee may be in Montreal.
Despite several possible sightings over the years, officers out west did not have any news on their case, according to the family.
“We were talking to them before we came here, and every day we’ve been phoning and there’s no help,” Ryver said.
Five days into the family’s trip to Montreal – just hours before driving back to Alberta – an investigator with the RCMP detachment in Montreal agreed to a phone meeting.
Lance says the investigator could only promise they would do their best to keep an eye out.
He believes “human error” is likely to blame for lack of follow-through.
“There was a miscommunication between those two – Grand Prairie and Montreal,” Lance said. “They didn’t know about the tip until my auntie phoned them.”
According to RCMP protocol, if a missing person is seen in another province, “the agency of origin” – here, the RCMP – will ask for help from police officers where the person was reportedly seen in order to follow up on the tip.
“Law enforcement agencies will work together to help find the missing person,” an RCMP spokesperson said in an email to APTN.
Except police have no legal authority to detain a person of legal age who is deemed to be “safe and not in any danger.”
“It is not a crime to go missing in Canada if you are an adult,” the email reads. “The only information the police are allowed to share with the family or complainant is that the person has been located safe and sound.”
Though the family has returned home to Alberta, they can’t rule out another exploratory trip to Montreal in the future.
“She was the most beautiful person I knew,” Ryver recounted.
“[Lorilee], we just want you to know that it’s us that are looking for you. We miss you and we love you so much,” Lance said.
“We want to ask you a whole bunch of questions so we understand why you’ve been gone so long.”
Anyone in Montreal who spots Lorilee is advised to contact local police force, the SPVM.