Canada's national DNA database to finally include missing people
Graham Slaughter, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, March 13, 2018 4:02PM EDT
After years of pressure from families, the federal government is finally including the DNA of missing persons in a national databank – a move that could help solve decades-old cold cases across Canada.
The new national missing persons DNA program, announced Monday by Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale, allows the RCMP to expand its national DNA data bank to include DNA from missing persons, the families of missing persons and unidentified human remains.
The registry will also include DNA samples from victims of crime, which could help identify repeat offenders, and DNA from voluntary donors who may be able to advance a criminal investigation.
“While the vast majority of missing persons are located within days, some are not. These cases are heart-wrenching for family and friends, and potentially dangerous in cases of foul-play,” Goodale said in a statement.
The very first DNA sample uploaded into the database is from Lindsey Nicholls, a 14-year-old girl who went missing on Aug. 2, 1993 on Vancouver Island. After years of searching, the case has gone cold.
Lindsey’s mother, Judy Peterson, has lobbied the government for years to adopt a national network. To honour her dedication, the legislative amendments to the DNA Identification Act were named “Lindsey’s Law.”
“When I heard the news, it’s almost unbelievable,” Peterson told CTV News Channel Tuesday.
The new approach essentially streamlines the RCMP’s DNA searches. Coroners, police and medical examiners across the country will be able to upload DNA profiles into a single, centralized location. The DNA can come from many sources, including human remains, hair samples or a toothbrush.
The software then sweeps the database in search of any potential links. Canada’s existing national DNA databank includes approximately 500,000 samples.
For Peterson, the new method has offered renewed hope.
“I’ve always contended that Lindsey’s DNA could be sitting unidentified, either in the coroner’s office or a crime scene somewhere. And getting this going and getting the cross-referencing happening on a national level is what the goal is,” she said.
It’s been 25 years since her daughter disappeared, and Peterson says she’s optimistic that the database could help break the case.
“We’re really hoping that someone will come forward with that one piece of evidence that will solve the puzzle,” she said.
Regardless, she says it’s been gratifying to see her years of lobbying make a difference.
“It’s one more thing that I know that I’ve done everything I absolutely can do to find her and to get some answers.”