By TYLER BATTEN
According to missingkids.ca over 50,000 children go missing in Canada each year, and I’ve yet to see a single Child Find poster in Kitchener-Waterloo. Local community posting boards are filled with rental ads, used cars, event listings and lost pets but no lost children.
Having visited every province in Canada through some of the most remote and rural communities, I’ve come upon towns that look just like my hometown of Kitchener and many which seem foreign.
A visitor to this part of the country, after exploring a little, might easily come to the conclusion that missing people are virtually non-existent here. We don’t have those common Child Find posters which cover public building windows, train stations and newspapers so prevalent in the rural north and across the west.
According to the Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) website, over the past three years, 13 people who were reported missing are still unfound. Many online, independent reports would show that number to be a lot larger.
An innumerable number of missing people may be in the area, but due to a lack of public knowledge these cases may go unsolved and become cold.
During the mid-1980s the “milk carton campaign” posted the faces of missing children on the sides of milk cartons. The campaign began in New York and quickly spread around the world, including Canada.
After just a few short years the campaign was completely abandoned due in large part to consumer dissatisfaction.
According to the Globe and Mail, in 1987 a New Jersey supermarket chain spokesman relayed a message he had heard from a customer that “It was rather depressing at the breakfast table to be looking at pictures of missing children.”
Of the 70 missing American children who were featured on milk cartons throughout the 1980s, only one was ever found alive. The others are either still considered missing or were found dead.
In northern Manitoba during the spring of 2013 I came across a black-eyed and bloody-lipped girl who looked like she was in her late teens on a sketchy side street, after midnight, in downtown The Pas. She called herself Evangeline Makai.
Slurring her words, she told me she was missing from Saskatchewan, that she was abducted and the people she was with were not her friends. She told me the RCMP were looking for her.
The people she was travelling with called her back quickly after separating from them to grab my hand. Around 10 of them got in between Evangeline and me.
Although they were the furthest thing from hostile, I could still see her through the wall of these happy, chatty teens and she was unmistakably sad. They insisted that she was only drunk.
The next day I filed a police report. The RCMP detachment in The Pas didn’t have Evangeline’s name on record and advised me that these occurrences often happen because of domestic spats brought on by drugs and alcohol.
According to national statistics, taken from the Government of Canada’s website, in 2012 16,379 missing children were from Ontario.
The same data set says that in 2012 “65 per cent of missing children reports were removed within 24 hours, while 86 per cent were removed within a week.”
A few months later, I saw Evangeline shopping while I was picking up supplies at a store in downtown The Pas. She saw me too. She didn’t smile but at the same time didn’t seem in danger, as she was shopping alone, apparently on her own volition. Perhaps she didn’t remember me.
Whether or not Evangeline wound up in good company is still a question on my mind, one that I suspect will never be answered.
Often, these cases are resolved quickly, but some drag on forever. If there were nearly as many posters in southern Ontario as there are in rural Ontario and the west, the response and resolution of such cases would be expedited through the six degrees of separation found in our ever-broadening public networks.
Perhaps, like the milk carton campaign of the 1980s, images of missing children are not something we who’ve never experienced familial loss could empathize with daily.
For important information regarding missing people from the K-W area go to: www.wrps.on.ca/missingpersons.