A Brandon MLA plans to table a private members bill in the Manitoba Legislature to create a Silver Alert system in the province aimed at locating vulnerable people.
Brandon East MLA Len Isleifson put forward a notice of motion indicating he will call for a change to the Missing Persons Act.
A Silver Alert system is similar to an Amber Alert, but it’s aimed at notifying the public about a missing person who is particularly vulnerable, such as elderly people, people living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and anyone living with autism and Down syndrome.
There’s currently no Canada-wide Silver Alert system. However, a group in British Columbia created a citizen’s Silver Alert program. It scans local police websites for news about missing persons and sends out alerts to subscribers to help locate people who meet the criteria for urgency and vulnerability.
Search and rescue volunteer Michael Coyle helped start the BC program following the search for Coquitlam resident Shin Noh; he lived with dementia and disappeared during his daily walk. He was never found.
Coyle started a website with Noh’s son.
“We just help send that message along to pass it along and alert people,” Coyle said. “I don’t know many people who regularly scan the RCMP websites so what we feel, and this is based on our experience as search and rescue, is these people are vulnerable, and we’re called out to search for them because of that reason.”
“Cold weather, often medications -- they won’t ask for assistance. It’s quite possible, and in our experience it happens, where someone can die in the middle of a city full of millions of people who just need to know that the person’s missing, to take a look around, something as simple as in their backyard.”
Victor Johnson’s mother Bessie, 94, went missing in Winnipeg in November 2014. She left the retirement residence where she lived on a Sunday afternoon and climbed inside a stranger's unlocked vehicle.
Johnson was missing for more than 12 hours. She was driven from Riverbend to the St. Vital area without the driver knowing she was in the car. She was found the next morning in a garage.
Johnson has since passed away. However, her son Victor said his mom had a stroke shortly before she disappeared, which left her disoriented.
“You’re wondering what happened to her? Why did she take off?” Johnson said. “You talk to her in the morning, and she didn’t get upset about anything and all of a sudden, she ups and walks out of a place.”
He said a Silver Alert system would be beneficial to Manitoba, and could’ve helped authorities find his mom faster.
“People would’ve maybe looked more carefully.”
Alzheimer Society of Manitoba CEO Wendy Schettler said it’s important to get the word out fast when someone living with Alzheimer’s disease goes missing.
“The longer a person is lost, the more likely they are to be injured,” Schettler said. “We have to figure out ways for them to be found more quickly.”
“We want to make sure they don’t get lost in the first place, and there are ways to help with that, but once they’re lost, it’s fundamental they’re found as quickly as we can.”
A PC caucus spokesperson said Isleifson isn’t available to do interviews about the bill until it’s presented in the legislature.
The bill is expected to be tabled sometime next week.