A new tool created to locate missing children in Canada has received support from police chiefs across the country.
“This new network will be a welcome addition to Canada’s national strategy for missing children,” Chief Bill Larkin, the president of The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said.
“Missing person investigations are complex. They’re resource intensive, and often very costly.”
The Missing Children Society of Canada’s Child Search Network has been in the making for more than a decade.
In 2019, the organization launched the MCSC rescu app in Calgary which allows people to view active cases of missing children in their community.
Now the national rollout and CACP endorsement means the program will be available to Canadians and police across the country.
“This is historic for the Missing Children Society of Canada,” MCSC CEO Amanda Pick said. “When Canadians are standing ready to help police when a child goes missing, it is a powerful opportunity of child protection.”
According to RCMP, 40,000 children go missing, run away or are abducted in Canada each year, but fewer than one per cent of those cases meet the criteria for an AMBER alert.
Pick said the Child Search Network and MCSC rescu will help to fill the gap.
“The Child Search Network enables police to send information into the community about high-risk missing children.” Pick said. “Now we have a way to respond.”
“When a child is missing from a safe environment regardless of the circumstances, we know that they’re at risk.”
The national launch is also being applauded by families who have had to live through the anguish of having a child go missing.
“It was so difficult,” Judy Peterson said from her home in Sidney, B.C. “It’s hard to imagine, but we didn’t even have cell phones or anything, so we were really depending on legwork from the RCMP, phoning around to her friends and putting up posters.”
In 1993, Peterson’s 14-year-old daughter Lindsey Nicholls vanished near Comox, B.C.
Despite years of searching, Nicholls has never been found.
“The police file is classified as ‘foul play suspected’,” Peterson said. “There’s been several tips but there’s just nothing concrete that we can find of what happened to her.”
Over the decades, Peterson campaigned to create a Canada-wide DNA database for people who have gone missing, known as Lindsey’s Law.
Peterson said she believes The Child Search Network will also be a useful resource for those searching for their loved ones.
“This tool, I think, is is going to be huge, and really help some families and save some children,” she said.
Meanwhile in Calgary, the MCSC rescu app has already proven its worth.
Calgary Police Service superintendent Cliff O’Brien said just a few weeks ago the The Child Search Network helped to locate two 14-year-old girls who were reported missing.
“Within three days we were able to recover both of those girls,” O’Brien said. “What was amazing to me is we had over two million engagement hits with the Child Search Network.
“There’s not two million police officers in this city, so there’s no way we could have done this alone.”