A long-awaited DNA bank for missing persons is operational after years of delays and is now collecting samples with the goal of identifying human remains, victims, and repeat but unidentified criminals across the country.
In a press release issued Monday, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the RCMP’s National Missing Persons DNA Program is now accepting biological samples and DNA profiles to be used in five new types of database that will be managed by the national police force.
Relatives, as well as police, coroners and medical examiners, will now be able to submit DNA samples either from themselves, from human remains or from personal effects of a victim or missing person in order to try and identify them.
Voluntary submissions to a new victim-profiling database could also help police link cases and identify serial offenders.
“While the vast majority of missing persons are located within days, some are not. These cases are heart-wrenching for family and friends, and potentially dangerous in cases of foul play,” said Goodale.
“The launch of the program follows over four years of planning, consultations and preparation, and provides all Canadian police with a new tool that could help in missing persons and unidentified remains investigations across Canada.”
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Previously, the RCMP have only been able to collect DNA samples from individuals convicted of crimes or from crime scenes.
That data was then stored in their National DNA Data Bank, created in 2010.
The 2014 budget promised a National Missing Persons DNA Program but efforts to create one have been plagued by delays as well as the need for legislative change to allow law enforcement to collect and store additional biological data.
Last fall, the government amended the DNA Identification Act to let the RCMP expand its use of analysis using DNA.
The force will now maintain three “humanitarian indices” within the National DNA Data Bank.
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The Missing Persons Index will use personal effects like toothbrushes or clothing to develop DNA profiles of missing persons; the Human Remains Index will do the same from human remains.
The Relatives of Missing Persons Index will allow close relatives of individuals who go missing to voluntarily submit their own DNA. The goal would then be to use the sample to either help identify remains of the missing person or to compare their DNA with unidentified samples held in the Human Remains Index.
As well, the RCMP will also be able to use two new indices specifically involving criminal cases.
The Victims Index will allow victims of crimes to voluntarily submit their DNA so that police can use it to try and link crime scenes and identify serial offenders.
The Voluntary Donors Index will also allow anyone who is not a victim to submit their own DNA if they think it could help advance a criminal, missing persons or unidentified human remains investigation.
All samples will be analyzed at the RCMP’s National DNA Data Bank laboratory in Ottawa.
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