Aleesha Wood wants to stop preventable deaths of vulnerable people after her brother died in the woods in West Kelowna.
“He didn’t have to die,” said Aleesha, sister of James Wood.
She has started a petition on change.org, titled ‘Vulnerable Persons Alert/Silver Alert for Canada’.
Aleesha proposes the implementation of an Alert system that encompasses all people with cognitive disabilities or decline, including but not limited to people with Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, Down syndrome and autism.
Aleesha alleges that her brother could have been found if an Alert Ready Broadcast Intrusive (BI) alert was sent out. When her brother wandered off on Nov. 8, 2021, a missing person report was not released for 24 hours. When the report was released, a local couple called Crimestoppers and said they had seen James walking on Smith Creek Road the day before.
The information was not relayed to the family or the public. Local search and rescue groups searched the area to no avail.
Months later, a local hiking group saw the tip that James was last seen on Smith Creek Rd. Aleesha said they immediately organized a search and shortly after beginning, discovered James’ remains close to the road.
By the time his body was discovered, there were only bones remaining and an autopsy could not be performed.
Aleesha said that if a BI alert were enacted immediately after his disappearance and information was properly relayed, it is likely that her brother would still be alive today.
She said that if the couple knew James was vulnerable and missing they could have immediately called the police or the tip line, rather than waiting a full day for a missing person report to be released.
Aleesha believes that with an alert, the local hiking group could have set out immediately with the knowledge of where he was, and the public would have access to up-to-date information about his disappearance.
The Ministry of Health said that they are currently investigating whether Silver Alerts for missing vulnerable people or seniors is the right tool for B.C.
The ministry said police have noted that “sending Silver alerts through the broadcast intrusive alerting system may not be appropriate as the public could become desensitized to the alerts.”
Emergency Management BC said that “local police have primary responsibility for locating missing individuals. Currently, these agencies use localized channels, including social and traditional media, to advise and seek help from the public when searching for missing individuals.”
Currently, Amber Alert is the only type of missing person event that is approved for use of a BI alert, said Emergency Management.
Alert Ready is a Canada-wide system that allows government officials in each province and territory, as well as Environment and Climate Change Canada, to issue BI public alerts over radio, television, and compatible cellphones.
The Ministry added that when seniors with cognitive impairments wander and become lost, it is not typically far from their home – therefore the work of local authorities, as well as the use of local media and social media, often achieves rapid and positive results.”