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MPP Taylor says proposed Ontario alerts for missing vulnerable persons to ‘pinpoint’ small regions

A Hamilton, Ont., politician who’s tabling a new bill expanding OPP alerts to include vulnerable people who go missing says the prospective notifications would be hyper-focused and only reach residents in certain communities.

Hamilton Mountain NDP MPP Monique Taylor says the new initiative aims to target just the neighbourhoods in which individuals living with autism and dementia were last seen, and not province-wide like those for missing children.

“You know, people get angry about them,” Taylor told Global Newsradio’s Kelly Cutrara Show.

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“I want them to think about the fact that this will be for their neighborhood only. This will be … able to pinpoint it directly to a very small region.”

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The bill, which amends the Missing Persons Amendment Act was inspired by petitions tied to two high-profile missing person cases in which a boy living with autism and woman suffering from dementia went missing, only to be found a few kilometres away.

In June of 2022, the body of a missing 11-year-old boy Draven Graham was recovered from Scugog River in Lindsay, Ont.

Police say Graham was found about 24 hours after wandering away from his home, prompting police from several jurisdictions, including the OPP, to join volunteers in a search for the youth who had limited verbal skills and a serious irritation to touch.

In December 2022, the family of Shirley Love say she slipped by her husband and left a Mount Albion apartment for days with the only lead security footage showing her walking in the area of Glendale golf course.

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Police would find the 80-year-old’s body just days later in the Kings Forest area, just 1.2 kilometres from her home.

“So when you’re hearing this, it’s somebody in your own backyard,” said Taylor, who is the critic for Children, Community, and Social Services.

“This isn’t somebody 100 kilometers away, somebody in your own backyard that your phone call will truly make a difference.”

The proposed legislation would allow OPP to issue alerts for missing persons who, “because of their age, a disability or other circumstances, whether temporary or permanent, is in a position of dependency on others or is otherwise at a greater risk than the general population of being harmed by a person in a position of trust or authority towards them.”

Taylor says the “extra tool” is meant for missing people typically on foot and “wandering around in their neighborhood,” but potentially in danger due to a condition.

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Current Amber Alert protocols are limited to cases involving abductions of children.

The system sends mass notifications to cellphones.

Police services across the province can request an alert if the following guidelines are met:

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  • Police believe a child under 18 has been abducted.
  • Police believe the child is in danger
  • Descriptions of a child, abductor or vehicle are available.
  • Police believe an immediate broadcast will help locate a child

A petition on Change.org created in honour of Graham sought support for officials to create the “Draven Alert” for missing autistic and vulnerable/specials needs children.

Close to 91,184 people have signed the appeal as of March 2023.

Bill 74 is set to receive its second reading at the end of the month at Queen’s Park.

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