Missing and Murdered Indigenous Advocate Wants National Alert System for Canada

Despite the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, a disproportionate number of Indigenous people continue to be missing to this day.

Stephanie Harpe, a member of Fort McKay First Nation, 54 kilometers north of Fort McMurray, Alta., believes a national alert system is needed for missing or murdered men, women, Aboriginal boys and girls.

“I would like to see an alert system created, where our missing children or missing persons are immediately connected to all resources, to all Canadians,” Harpe told CBC. Edmonton AM Thursday.

Harpe was inspired by the state of Washington which recently implemented the first statewide alert system in the United States for missing Native persons.

“Now that they’ve adopted him there, I’m making as much noise as I can to get him here in Canada,” she said.

Washington State’s alert system will function as an Amber Alert, notifying law enforcement when there is a report of a missing Indigenous person. It will also place messages on highway reading signs, radio and social media, and news media.

Harpe stood up for the missing and mu, whose mother was murdered in 1999 and survived an assassination attempt, said she never got the help she needed.

“We as Indigenous people are still not treated the same,” she said.

7:49Why There’s a Call for a National Alert for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples

The final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was released in 2019. A disproportionate number of Indigenous people remain missing to this day. Stéphanie Harpe wants to create a national system that would help fight what the report calls “genocide”.

Indigenous peoples collectively make up one of the smallest population groups in the country, at 4.9%, according to the 2016 census, but are far more likely than other Canadians to be victims of homicide. According to Statistics Canadain 2020, the homicide rate for Indigenous people was seven times higher than for non-Indigenous people.

The Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police is one of the few police forces that publishes statistics on missing persons. Its latest data indicates that nearly 45% of people who went missing between 1940 and 2020 were Indigenous, up from just over 16% of the population in a 2016 census.

Harpe said Indigenous peoples deserve the same attention, vibrancy and justice that other communities across the country receive when they go missing or are murdered.

“We just want what everyone else would get,” she said.

For now, Harpe takes care of Native Alert, a website that was created by an Alberta native consultation group, Four Winds, seven years ago.

The site tracks missing persons across Canada. It gives information about the age, gender, location and status of missing persons and also provides a photograph. Some profiles have one or two missing pieces of information.

The list is also categorized by province and by new and ongoing cases.

Nicole Martel, a researcher at Aboriginal Alert, said the group – mostly made up of volunteers – collects information about missing people from news reports and social media.

“It’s just the really local stuff right now,” she told CBC on Friday.

She said the organization works with Manitoba Police, which helps design an alert, much like an Amber Alert, for missing Indigenous people.

Martel said they are still determining the alert criteria for missing and murdered Native people.

“That’s the biggest question everyone asks,” she said.