'You Are Not Alone': Sask. Missing Persons Week honours 133 missing people and their families
This is a picture of a billboard that RPS has installed at the corner of Osler St. and Saskatchewan Dr for the week. It shows images and information about the 133 missing people in the province. (Stefanie Davis/CTV News)
REGINA -- This year’s Saskatchewan Missing Persons Week holds the theme ‘You Are Not Alone’ as a show of support to the families of those who are missing.
For eight years, the Provincial Partnership Committee on Missing Persons recognizes the week to raise awareness, provide education and offer support to those who currently have a loved one who is missing.
“There are sadly 133 people in Saskatchewan who have been missing on a long term basis,” Don Morgan, Saskatchewan Minister of Justice, said in a video posted on Facebook. “This means that there are also 133 families and loved ones who carry the weight of this uncertainty and loss every day.”
He said this year, it’s more important than ever to remind the families that there is community support available to them.
RPS FOCUSING ON CONNECTING WITH FAMILIES
Evan Bray, the Regina Police Service’s Chief, said this week is incredibly important to both the service and the families whose loved ones are missing.
“When you’re investigating a lot of crime, there’s a start and an end to the crime, and we have to try to put the pieces together of what happened,” Bray said. “But in the case of missing persons, families are left with so many unanswered questions and in many cases that brings about anger and anxiety and frustration and sadness.”
He said a missing person case brings together a family and a police service to try to find some of the answers to those questions.
“We recognize the need to support families and support our community,” Bray said. “Saskatchewan as a province I think disproportionately has a large number of missing persons cases.”
He said over the past several years, while technologies and techniques have changed in missing persons investigations, their main change has been in how they work collaboratively with families.
In 2012, the Victims Services Unit at RPS created a liaison between investigators and the families of missing people to provide additional layers of support to those who need it.
“That can be practical support, referrals to different supports they may need regarding finances, property information or things like that,” Rhonda Fiddler, a missing persons liaison with RPS said. “And it provides emotional support, which is the biggest part of my job.”
She said one of the biggest things that families need help understanding is that their feelings don’t disappear.
“They live with those fears, those hopes, that anxiety every day of their life until their family members return,” Fiddler said.
Encouraging families to keep their hope alive is another key part of her job.
“Not only that their loved one is found, but hope that their family can continue on after their loved one goes missing,” she said. “And of course, hope that there will be an answer someday.”
Fiddler said Missing Persons Week is important because families need to know that their loved ones are not forgotten.
HOLDING OUT HOPE
Paula Bali’s daughter, Mekayla Bali, went missing in April of 2016.
Paula said every day since then has been difficult, as she and her family wait for answers.
“I don’t know what has happened to her, I don’t know where she is, I don’t know if she needs help, I don’t know if she’s deceased, I don’t know if she’s alive,” Bali said. “How can anyone live with such turmoil?”
She said although she believes Missing Persons Week is important, it also comes with mixed emotions for her.
“Sometimes [Missing Persons Week] can be good, sometimes it can be painful, sometimes it brings to light the things we are struggling with,” Bali said.
She said she would still like to see improvement with accountability and transparency when it comes to missing persons cases in Saskatchewan and she thinks this week is a good time to highlight that.
She said improvements in those areas could bring relief to more people with loved ones missing.
“Every family is different and what every family needs could be different, but I think in the end we’re all looking for conclusion and we’re looking for answers,” Bali said.
Saskatchewan Missing Persons Week runs until Saturday. All events will be hosted online because of physical distancing requirements.