Feelings of confusion and frustration with a missing loved one’s case and the police investigation are often reported by family members.

Family members may feel a need to participate in the search as a way of coping, keeping actively involved and making sure that everything is being done to locate the missing loved one.

However, investigating missing person cases has traditionally been considered a police responsibility.

File a missing person report

When someone you love goes missing, please contact the police agency where your loved one disappeared to file a missing person report as soon as possible. Law enforcement is the single best resource in helping to locate missing persons.

Even when the person has disappeared years or decades before, you can still file a missing person report.

Now what?

One of the best ways to assist in the search is to raise awareness of your loved one’s disappearance among friends and in the public eye.

Notifying friends and family about the disappearance is a good way to find out who had the last contact with the missing person.  Always ask if the family member or friend knows of anyone else that should be contacted.

When the time is appropriate, contact your missing loved one’s employer, school, doctor, financial institution, landlord, etc. to let them know about the disappearance.

Create posters of your missing relative that provide a photo, physical description and contact information to ask for help from the public.  Often extended family, friends and even members of the public will help to distribute the posters in public places.  If possible, get permission to put up posters in businesses or public areas.  Approach a local printing business to see if they are able to print the posters at no, or reduced costs.

Seeking out additional assistance

Depending on the circumstances of your loved one’s case, it may be possible to ask for help from specialty groups who frequent the area where the disappearance occurred.  For example, if your loved one has gone missing in a wilderness area, municipal, provincial park authorities or Parks Canada may be able to assist in distributing information about your loved one to park visitors.  Hunters, skiers, boater, hikers, cyclists and other enthusiasts can increase the number of people involved in searching for your loved one.

If your family member talked about exploring different areas of the province or country, contacting media in the other areas may be useful.

In some situations, family members or loved ones may want to organize and lead searches.  Before organizing a search, family members should speak with police to make sure that areas to be searched have been cleared with police.  It may be possible to arrange for trained searchers to help.  There are many Search and Rescue (SAR) organizations listed on the Internet and Social Media.

Awareness activities

Some families and friends organize awareness-building activities that range from simple activities to large-scale events.   Consulting with those closest to the missing person is recommended to ensure that they are comfortable participating in the event.

Some activities organized by families are:

  • Candlelight vigils;
  • Community events (e.g. BBQ, community dinners, concert, picnics, etc.);
  • Setting up an information kiosk at public concerts or other special events;
  • Selling t-shirts with the missing person’s photo;
  • Creating dedicated Facebook or X accounts;
  • Putting up posters or banners;
  • Handing out missing person flyers;
  • Holding a rally;
  • Public dove or butterfly release.

This document has been developed by the CCIMA for general information purposes (12/2012).