Families of missing persons in Canada call for DNA database

July 24, 2012 - 

Families in Canada tracking missing family members are calling for a national DNA database that can help identify missing persons and unidentified remains.

In 2003, a petition was launched by Judy Peterson, calling for “Lindsey’s Law”, proposed legislation named after her daughter Lindsey Jill Nicholls, who went missing in 1993.

Lindsey’s Law calls for DNA from missing persons and unidentified remains to be added to Canada’s National DNA Data Bank, which was set up in 2000 to help police with their investigations.  The inclusion would make it accessible to law enforcement in other provinces.  This could aid in finding missing persons across Canada.

“I think the DNA databank is just the missing piece,” Peterson said in an interview.  “I believe it will happen, I just can’t understand why it’s taking too long.”

In 2013, the National Center for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains will begin sharing information.  However, the center’s database will not include DNA.

Vic Toews, Canada’s federal public safety minister, said there were a number of complex legal, privacy, financial and practical considerations that the government needed to address before it could incorporate DNA.

However Ray Boughen, a Conservative MP from Saskatchewan, presented another petition regarding a DNA databank amendment.  The petition was forwarded by Melanie Alix, whose son, Dylan Koshman, was reported missing in October 2008 in Edmonton. Boughen presented the petition to the House of Commons on February 1 and again in June with three different petitions and close to 8,000 signatures.

He said that in terms of costs, it could be lowered if DNA from these cases was voluntarily incorporated into the existing database for convicted offenders and crime scenes.

As of June 30, the databank contained more than 325,000 DNA profiles from convicted offenders and crime scenes.  The data has assisted more than 23,000 investigations, including 1,600 murder cases.

According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police,  as of March 31, there were 6,838 people listed as missing, but no recorded number of unidentified remains in cemeteries and morgues across the country.

Andrew McCallum, Chief Coroner of Ontario, said: “The reason that it’s a little challenging is the jurisdiction over death is a provincial and territorial responsibility so the federal government can provide funding but it doesn’t actually have jurisdiction over these provincial matters.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Peterson is still without closure and August 2 will mark the 19th anniversary of her daughter’s disappearance.

“Maybe her DNA is sitting unidentified in the Crime Scene Index and I would never know,” she said.  “Those remains that are sitting in coroner’s offices, those are people, they’re people’s loved ones and they deserve to be identified and the family members deserve to know.”

Do you think the DNA of missing persons should be included in Canada’s DNA national databank?





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About T'ash Spenser

T’ash Spencer writes full time for BiometricUpdate.com. She has 15 years experience in the field of regional planning and earned her Master’s of Science in Regional Development Planning and Management from the University of Dortmund, Germany. Follow her @tashspencer1.