Does Canada Need A National DNA Database?

There is no easy answer to this question since much depends upon whether or not a loved one of yours has vanished without a trace.

For Canadian, Judy Peterson, this has been a terrible reality with which she has been forced to live since her 14-year-old daughter, Lindsey Jill Nicholls, vanished from a small community on Vancouver Island in 1992. To this day, she struggles with questions surrounding her disappearance. Although answers may lie through DNA matching, Canada’s DNA legislation has not caught up with the times.

Canada does have a crime scene and a convicted offender DNA databank, but it is employed only to identify criminals, not to link DNA from missing persons with unidentified remains. Perhaps the saddest fact is that the software, technology and infrastructure to establish such a databank have been very much in place for the last decade, but the government, due to legal issues and a lack of resources for laboratory funding, has been stonewalling its realization.

In the passionate words of Judy Peterson:

“My 14-year old daughter vanished in 1992, and I remember the very moment I realized that her remains could be among those unidentified samples. I have the right to know if my daughter’s body. The committee issued a report in June that recommended Ottawa take steps to create such a system on “an urgent basis. A Commons committee report released a year earlier made the same recommendation…and Lindsey deserves justice and a proper burial. To this end, I have lobbied for the passage of what has come to be known as Lindsey’s Law, which would allow investigators to collect DNA from missing persons or their close relatives and compare it to DNA from crime scenes and unidentified human remains.”

Forensic science as dramatized in TV shows like CSI have opened the floodgates for the potential for justice, but while federal and provincial governments continue to debate, study, form countless committees and argue over who will be responsible and who will pay, human remains in coroners’ offices across Canada amass and scream for identification.

The quest for a missing persons DNA databank is important for a number of reasons. Not only will it grant a small measure of comfort to family members of the missing, it can also provide a significant degree of safety for all Canadian citizens. Until these remains are identified, investigation of these terrible crimes is impossible, which means that whoever abducted and killed Lindsey is still out there.

Although police and coroners warn that a DNA databank cannot provide closure to the thousands of people across Canada who have had a loved one disappear because there are many more missing people than unidentified human remains, there’s no question that such a resource could be the key in unlocking the mystery of many disappearances.

Canada, what the hell are you waiting for?

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