Ontario could see a new use for the emergency alert system
While Amber Alerts are typically only issued for abducted children under the age of 17, one Ontario MPP is proposing to expand the emergency broadcast system to cover all "vulnerable persons."
MPP Monique Taylor represents the Hamilton Mountain riding and currently serves as the NDP Critic for Children, Community and Social Services.
This week, Taylor tabled Bill 74, Missing Persons Amendment Act, 2023 to broaden the scope of when emergency alerts can be issued.
The proposed amendment would give Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) the authority to issue alerts for "vulnerable 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."
An officer may request that the OPP issue a vulnerable persons alert if they believe a missing person is a vulnerable person, have descriptive information about that person, and have reasons to believe that an alert will assist in locating them.
"Last year, the Lindsay community mourned the loss of a young boy who tragically lost his life several days after going missing from his home," Taylor said.
"An Amber Alert could not be issued to help the community's search. As a result, tragedy struck, and a family was left heartbroken."
Taylor's proposed legislation would allow the OPP to send an emergency alert for any vulnerable person who goes missing from home, which could include a person with autism, Alzheimer's, or dementia.
"This bill fills an important gap in the current emergency alert system," Taylor said.
"It would ensure that the OPP are able to send targeted, regional alerts to help find vulnerable people when they go missing and make sure they get home safely. This is an important tool families can use to help find their loved ones in an unthinkable situation."
Although Taylor said she understands that some people are frustrated with receiving Amber alerts on their phone late at night and miles away from the incident, her proposed alert system would be much more local.
"It would ensure that the OPP are able to send targeted, regional alerts to help find vulnerable people when they go missing and make sure they get home safely," Taylor said in an interview with NewsTalk 1010's Moore in the Morning.
The proposed legislation will receive its first reading on March 29 at Queen's Park.
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