More than 80 per cent of missing-person incidents in Winnipeg involve foster children and youth, and some 70 per cent are girls – an official police statistic that government and indigenous leaders say is linked to the tragedy of Canada's murdered and missing aboriginal women.
The Winnipeg Police Service's second-quarter report, which will be presented at a police board meeting on Friday, found that people staying at Manitoba Child and Family Services facilities accounted for about eight in 10 of the 2,179 missing-person incidents in April, May and June. Six out of every 10 reported incidents stemmed from foster charges living in group homes, while only one in 10 related to people who went missing from a family residence.
Another report prepared for the meeting found that the top 19 addresses associated with missing-person incidents reported in November, 2014, were CFS facilities.
It also said 90 per cent of last year's reports involved people between the ages of 11 and 20; the month of May had the most missing-person reports, at 735.
"It shows we have a lot of work to do," said city councillor Ross Eadie, who is on the police board and spent time in a group home as a teenager. "Every runaway could end up being a missing or murdered woman, and that's the scary part."
After Tina Fontaine was killed while in care last year, the police board voted unanimously to make the protection of indigenous women and girls a priority for the city's force. Some of the missing-person reports in the second-quarter update relate to the same person (22 people had 15 or more missing-person incidents).
Generally speaking, the vast majority of people reported missing are located within a few days.
But some, such as 15-year-old Tina, meet a darker fate.
The Sagkeeng First Nation teen was one of the more than 9,000 indigenous children and youth in care in Manitoba when she went missing from her emergency placement at a downtown hotel in August of last year. She was found dead just days later. Her death, as well as the nearly fatal beating of a teenaged aboriginal girl placed at the same establishment earlier this year, prompted the Manitoba government to stop the use of the hotels for temporary placements.
"What concerns me is how vulnerable these young boys and girls are on the street," Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross said, noting the government has opened additional beds at secure facilities for at-risk girls and is focusing on preventing children from coming into care in the first place. She said her understanding is that the numbers in the update are similar to those in years prior. "I'm not making excuses," she said. "One missing child is too many."
Federal statistics show Manitoba had the highest number of missing-person reports involving children and youth per capita in Canada last year. More than 6,400 missing person reports involved young people – nearly twice the number in Alberta, which has a population more than three times greater.
The WPS refused to comment on the second-quarter update, which is posted online, before Friday's meeting. Based on the report, it appeared that 709 people accounted for 2,179 missing-person reports. Just over 70 per cent of the missing individuals were female.
Chronic missing persons accounted for 68 per cent of the missing-person reports – a symptom, one indigenous leader said, of a broken child-welfare system in desperate need of more resources. "After they're found, are we taking them back to the same foster homes and expecting a different outcome?" said Dawn Harvard, the president of the Native Women's Association of Canada. "I don't think anybody is doing enough for these kids."
Thelma Favel, who raised Tina, told The Globe and Mail from her home in rural Manitoba on Tuesday that every time she hears about a person who has gone missing – female, indigenous or otherwise – she worries for them and their loved ones.
"I never want a family to go through what we went through, and are still going through," Ms. Favel said.
Tina's killing, more than one year later, remains unsolved.
With a report from The Canadian Press