An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
ANOTHER TEENAGER WENT MISSING on the weekend. Fifteen years old, 5 ft. 5 inches tall, 110 pounds, brown eyes and hair, indigenous female.
The following day, she was found safe and sound.
That’s pretty much always as much as we’re allowed to know. A teenager goes missing and, a day or two later, sometimes longer, is found “safe and sound.” End of story.
But is it? Missing and found reports are a regular occurrence on the police blotter. The missing person is almost always a teenager, often female, and very often indigenous.
And, of course, police resources must be directed towards finding the missing young person as quickly as possible, and there’s the intense stress caused to parents and guardians.
Given the frequency and consistency of these situations, it’s reasonable to assume that something has gone wrong in the teenager’s life causing them to take off without notice and hole up in a friend’s house, or a relative’s, or head for a regular hangout.
We don’t know for sure because no details are ever given of the circumstances.
It’s troubling, especially in light of the final report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Though these seemingly weekly police reports of missing indigenous teenagers usually end well, each one has a potential for tragedy.
There’s a clear need to shine a spotlight on why so many teens, especially indigenous teens, run away from home and put themselves at risk. Studies have been done about abuses within the child-welfare system and so on, but it’s an opportune time to increase transparency and renew the focus on the causes and circumstances of runaways, not just involving indigenous females but with special attention to them.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.