TORONTO – When a loved one goes missing, swift action is critical. That’s why the Ontario Government is putting people’s safety first by providing frontline police officers with more tools to respond quickly to missing persons investigations.
“Police and family members tell us that the first hours after someone goes missing are the most critical,” said Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General. “That’s why we’re providing our frontline heroes with more tools to quickly find our loved ones.”
The Missing Persons Act, proclaimed by the government on July 1, 2019, provides police with three additional tools to use when there is no evidence a crime has been committed. These will allow police to:
- Obtain copies of records that may assist in a search;
- Obtain a search warrant to enter a premises to locate a missing person; and
- Make an urgent demand for certain records without a court order.
The act sets out tests to obtain court authorization for access to records or search warrants, and to execute urgent demands for records. It requires police and the courts to consider privacy issues and whether there is evidence that the person does not wish to be located. The act also includes guidelines on what information police may disclose about a missing person before and after they have been located.
“The Toronto Police Service investigates between 4,000 and 5,000 missing person reports every year. In each case, police have one goal which is to locate the individual and ensure their safety,” said Chief Mark Saunders, Toronto Police Service. “The new legislation will help police investigators by providing new resources and access to information that will enhance our investigations and facilitate locating these missing people.”
Previously, when a person went missing without evidence of criminal activity, police were limited in the ways they could investigate. This legislation allows police to respond to missing persons investigations rapidly, while balancing concerns for an individual’s privacy.
“Ensuring the safety and security of the people is our government’s most fundamental responsibility,” said Jones. “We are committed to ensuring that police have what they need to protect the public and put justice for victims at the centre of everything they do.”
- To ensure transparency and accountability, the act sets out a requirement for chiefs of police and the commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police to report annually on the use of urgent demands for records by members of the police service.
- A mandated five-year review of the legislation is required.
- There is no requirement to wait 24 hours to report someone missing in Ontario.
- Nearly 7,500 people were reported missing in Ontario in 2018.