NEWS
02/14/2014 08:43 EST | Updated 04/16/2014 05:59 EDT

Missing Persons Act would allow more searches by police

New legislation that will make it easier for police to search for missing people, even when there is no proof of a criminal act, has been proposed by B.C.'s Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton.

It comes as thousand of people are expect to march to the legislature in Victoria and other provincial capitals on Friday to call for more police investigations into the hundreds of missing and murdered aboriginal women across Canada

The proposed Missing Persons Act would give police the power to demand records like bank statements, cell phone texts and messages, hotel guest books or anything else they feel could help find a vulnerable person.  

Anton says police will be able to request information from missing people or third parties, even when there's no proof of a criminal act.

"When someone is missing, there may be all kinds of reasons why they're unaccounted for, so you can't assume it's criminal at that point," said Anton.

"What this does is give police civil remedies to search records, to make inquiries and to search for somebody."

Failure to comply could bring a fine of up to $10,000 a day for individuals and $25,000 for corporations.

Emergency powers undefined

Police will have to ask a judge to order the release of information, but the bill also allows police to make emergency demands, without a court order.

Nevertheless Anton is confident police will not abuse those powers.

"We expect our police to exercise good judgment, and they do," she said.

Anton says the proposed legislation is based on a recommendation from the Missing Women Inquiry, which found police would not investigate reports of missing women unless they believed something criminal had happened. 

NDP justice critic Kathy Corrigan says she expects her party will support it, but they are critical that more recommendations from Wally Oppal's Missing Women report, which came out in December of 2012, have not been adopted.

"Unfortunately, it's only one step out of the 63 recommendations that Justice Oppal made," said Corrigan.

Anton promises more initiatives to come as a result of Oppal's report.

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