Each year, British Columbia sees a disproportionately high number of missing persons cases, with nearly double the number reported in the next closest province, Ontario, which has nearly triple its population. Across the country, the majority of missing persons cases are resolved within days to a week, but some, remain unsolved for years.
Positively identified cases have been found alive; however, cases of possible homicide, suicide or disappearance continue to be investigated by the RCMP. In 2013, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) launched a Missing Persons Database (MPD), an online database that allows family members and friends to search for the whereabouts of a loved one who is missing.
A similar project has also been implemented in Prince George, B.C., with the goal of providing an efficient way to connect families, law enforcement agencies and other organizations to help locate missing people. The VPD's new program, however, differs from the Prince George model in several ways:
• It includes missing persons cases as well as those classified as suspicious deaths, missing people, missing children and unidentified remains.
• It provides information for missing persons cases from across British Columbia, while the Prince George system covers only the city of Prince George and surrounding areas.
• The database is available to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
• The database is updated weekly, rather than monthly, and family members and friends can use their email addresses to receive updates regarding missing persons cases. The Missing Persons Database is the result of a partnership between the VPD and the BC Coroners Service (BCCS).
BC recorded 12,400 missing persons cases involving adults in 2020 — more than 40% of the country's 29,645 cases. The same year, there were 5,870 cases of missing children in BC - the third highest number in the country behind Ontario and Manitoba.
British Columbia RCMP communications officer for the Island District Cpl. Chris Manseau says there is no clear reason why BC has such high numbers of missing people compared to other provinces, but he believes the province's topography could be a contributing factor: lots of lakes, forests, mountains, and the ocean. If someone goes missing, it can sometimes be hard to even decide where to start searching.
With BC having the highest number of missing persons on record, the RCMP is hoping to improve upon the situation by using new technology, like an app that helps authorities determine which area in a given location could be searched first. "We need to be able to quickly identify areas and places that need to be searched," Manseau said. To make sure that every person who is reported missing is not only located but also returned home safe.