UPDATE (22/08): The minor mentioned in this story has been found safe so her name and photo, as well as that of the man she was seen with, have been removed.
CAPE BRETON, N.S. — The Native Women’s Association of Canada has joined a chorus of voices calling on the RCMP to issue an Amber Alert in connection with the disappearance of a Cape Breton teenager who has not been seen for one week.
RCMP issued a localized emergency alert Thursday regarding a member of the We’koqma’q Mi’kmaq First Nation, who was last seen in Eskasoni around 4 p.m. on Aug. 13.
Police said Thursday they received new information that she and a 47-year-old man were in the area of Canoe Lake in southeast Cape Breton at 7 p.m. Wednesday night using a green ATV. The force issued an alert to residents living east of the Mira River in Cape Breton on Thursday, asking people contact authorities if they see either of them.
But criticism is still mounting that the RCMP have not acted with enough urgency to find the girl and bring her home safely.
“Her community is distraught and confused by the apparent lack of concern on the part of the RCMP,” Whitman, president of the Native Women’s Association, said in a statement. “It is time for the police to do everything in their power to find this girl and bring her to safety.”
The 14-year-old disappeared from her foster home last week, a statement from the women’s association said Wednesday. Family and community members have been searching for her, but they say RCMP officers have not joined them on foot.
Video surveillance footage placed her and the man at a gas station in Catalone, N.S. on Aug. 13.
Whitman said she appears to be in danger. We’koqma’q First Nation councillors expelled the man from the community, the statement said, because he posed a threat to safety and security.
An online petition calling for an Amber Alert into her disappearance had 13,000 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.
RCMP Cpl. Lisa Croteau said Thursday that the teen’s case does not meet the province’s criteria for an Amber Alert because police do not believe she was abducted.
After issuing three news releases about her since Aug. 14, Croteau said the RCMP issued a localized alert because the pair had been seen in the Canoe Lake area. She said a localized message would encourage people to be on the lookout and report any sightings to police.
Whitman said such bureaucratic rules should not get in the way of issuing an Amber Alert. She noted that the slow response by police fits a pattern when it comes to missing Indigenous girls and women in Canada.
“It is wrong for police to be so unconcerned when an Indigenous girl is gone for a week and her community members are left to search for her by themselves,” she said.
Croteau maintained Thursday that the criteria exist for a reason and she said they need to be followed.
“In order to keep the Amber Alerts effective, it depends on us and everyone in the province that they’re used in cases that meet the criteria,” she said.
Croteau could not say how many officers were on the ground searching for the girl Thursday. RCMP helicopter searches began Wednesday night. Cape Breton Regional Police Service is assisting the investigation.
She is described as Indigenous, 5 feet 1 inches tall and 100 pounds, with brown hair and eyes, with a rose tattoo on her left forearm and could be wearing glasses.
The man, who is from Mira Gut, is described as six feet tall, 190 pounds, with long black hair, a full beard and moustache, and brown eyes.
The RCMP are asking anyone with information about her whereabouts to contact authorities.
As part of their own search efforts, We’koqma’q Chief and Council are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the teen.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 20, 2020.
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