When a loved one goes missing, swift action is critical; and with more than 240,000 Ontario seniors estimated to be living with some form of dementia today, being able to locate seniors in the first 24 hours after they go missing is crucial to saving lives. Fifty per cent of those who go missing for 24 hours or more risk serious injury, or even death. Sixty per cent of people living with dementia will go missing at some point, often without warning.
“Ensuring the safety and security of the people is our government’s most fundamental responsibility,” said local M.P.P., Steve Clark. “We are committed to ensuring that our police services in Leeds and Grenville and those across Ontario have the resources they need to enhance their ability to conduct missing persons investigations.”
The Missing Persons Act, proclaimed by the government on July 1, 2019, provides police with three additional tools to use when there is no evidence a crime has been committed.
These tools will allow police to: obtain copies of records that may assist in a search; obtain a search warrant to enter a premise to locate a missing person; and make an urgent demand for certain records without a court order.
The Act also includes guidelines on what information police may disclose about a missing person before and after they have been located. The Missing Persons Act sets out tests to obtain court authorization for access to records or search warrants and to execute urgent demands for records. It requires police and the courts to consider privacy issues and whether there is evidence that the person does not wish to be located. The act also includes guidelines on what information police may disclose about a missing person before and after they have been located.
Previously, when a person went missing without evidence of criminal activity, police were limited in the ways they could investigate. With this legislation, police can now respond to miss- ing persons investigations quicker, while balancing concerns for an individual’s privacy.
“Police and family members tell us that the first hours after someone goes missing are the most critical,” said Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General. “That’s why we’re providing our frontline heroes with more tools to quickly find our loved ones.”
There is no requirement to wait 24 hours to report someone missing in Ontario, and nearly 7,500 people were reported missing in the province in 2018.
To ensure transparency and accountability, the act sets out a requirement for chiefs of police and the Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police to report annually on the use of urgent demands for records by members of the police service. A mandated five-year review of the legislation is required.