VICTORIA - Two hours after Shin Noh went missing, family friends saw him wandering near his suburban Vancouver home, but thought nothing was out of the ordinary because the 64-year-old former pastor was often seen walking in the area.
It was two days before searchers received the valuable information.
A grief-stricken Sam Noh, the missing man's son, said Tuesday that he believes an alert system, akin to Amber Alerts for children, might have saved his father's life.
"A church member saw him in his neighbourhood, but didn't know he was missing. I believe if the word was out quickly, we would have found him," Noh said at the British Columbia's legislature, to lend support to an Opposition New Democrat private members' bill for Silver Alert legislation that would alert authorities to missing seniors.
Shin Noh, was in the mid-stages of Alzheimer's when he went out walking last September. He hasn't been found.
"We're still searching," his son said as he stood beside New Democrats Selina Robinson and Katrine Conroy at a news conference following the introduction of the Silver Alert Act.
"We're going to back this thing up 100 per cent," he said. "Just the hell that we're going through even right now — not knowing where he is — no other Canadian family should be going through this."
Amber Alerts are broadcast provincewide in cases where children are reported missing. Police, media and other public and private agencies broadcast information about the missing child, including a detailed description and urge people to report any possible sightings.
The proposed Silver Alert Act calls for a voluntary co-operative plan between provincial law enforcement agencies and other groups to work together in a similar way to safely recover missing seniors.
Robinson, who represents the Coquitlam-Mallairdville riding where the Noh family lives, said helping look for Noh and considering that Alzheimer's and dementia rates are increasing, B.C. must take pro-active actions to keep their elderly loved ones safe.
"It can only benefit our seniors and our communities," she said. "Certainly, if it was my parent and they were diagnosed with a cognitive impairment and I was freaking out because I couldn't find them and they were expected home and weren't appearing home, I would want to call out all the stops for my loved one and make sure they were found."
Robinson said more than 30 jurisdictions in the United States have Silver Alert programs. Last March, Ontario introduced its "Finding Your Way" program, which teaches safety awareness and prevention.
Health Minister Terry Lake said he is prepared to meet with the Noh family to discuss the proposed Silver Alert program, but he said there are concerns about personal privacy and desensitizing public responses to Amber Alerts.
"We need to look at the benefits as well as the challenges of the system," said Lake.
Private members' bill rarely result in legislation, but sometimes form the basis of future government programs or laws.
Noh said despite police efforts and massive public searches for his father, the search needed a complete team approach.
"Our community did not have a strategy," he said. "We had to rally up the community to look for my dad. We felt there was nothing in place to help look for him."