NORTH BAY — Frontline police officers now have more tools to respond quickly to missing person investigations.
"Police and family members tell us that the first hours after someone goes missing are the most critical," said Sylvia Jones, Ontario Solicitor General.
The Missing Persons Act, proclaimed by the government on July 1, four years after it was first proposed at Queen's Park. provides police with three additional tools to use when there is no evidence a crime has been committed. These will allow police to:
- Obtain copies of records that may assist in a search;
- Obtain a search warrant to enter premises to locate a missing person; and
- Make an urgent demand for certain records without a court order.
The 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. This legislation allows police to respond to missing person investigations rapidly while balancing concerns for an individual's privacy.
Perhaps North Bay's most notable missing person case is that of Luke Joly-Durocher, who went missing from downtown North Bay in 2011.
Joly-Durocher was 20 at the time of his disappearance.
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.
It also sets out what can be released to the public and media.
Disclosure of information to the public
7 (1) Before a missing person is located, a chief of police or person designated by the chief of police may disclose any information to the public, including personal information, by any means that the chief or designated person considers appropriate if,
(a) the chief or designated person has reasonable grounds to believe that it will assist in locating the missing person; or
(b) the disclosure is for a prescribed purpose.
(2) Without limiting the generality of subsection (1), the following information may be disclosed under that subsection:
1. The name of the missing person or another person.
2. The age and physical description of the missing person or another person.
3. A photo or other visual representation of the missing person or another person.
4. The fact that the missing person has a medical condition that poses a threat to the person’s health and whether the condition requires medication or medical attention. However, the medical condition itself shall not be disclosed.
5. Information identifying a specific vehicle.
6. The circumstances that may have led to the missing person’s absence.
7. The times and places at which the missing person may have been seen or places the missing person is known to frequent.
8. Any other prescribed information.
Disclosure of information re a located person
(3) If the missing person is located, the chief of police or a person designated by the chief of police may disclose to the public,
(a) the fact that the missing person has been located; and
(b) if the chief or designated person learns that the missing person is deceased, the fact that the missing person is deceased.
Limit on disclosure re a located person
(4) If the missing person is located, a member of a police force shall not disclose a missing person’s personal information, including the missing person’s location, to facilitate contact between the missing person and the spouse of the missing person or a relative, friend or acquaintance of the missing person except with the consent of the missing person.
There is no requirement to wait 24 hours to report someone missing in Ontario.
Nearly 7,500 people were reported missing in Ontario in 2018.