Ontario viewers peeved after Amber Alert interrupts Sunday night TV-watching

Ontarians were a little peeved after an Amber Alert interrupted their Sunday night TV but Ontario Provincial Police say: too bad.

'We won't apologize for using all of the tools available to us to find a missing child'

OPP used the new Amber Alert program for the first time Sunday night. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

Some Ontarians were a little peeved after an Amber Alert interrupted their Sunday night TV but the Ontario Provincial Police say: too bad.

The OPP used the enhanced Amber Alert program for the first time Sunday night, which alerted TV viewers to a missing boy through a red pop-up on the screen. There was also a sharp, repeated alarm sound that interrupted the audio of the TV programs. The alert also broadcast over radio.

At the time, police were trying to locate a young boy. Callers had reported he had been physically taken and forced into a minivan in Orillia, Ont. In the end, it turned out the boy was picked up by his parents after they said he had run away from home.

The OPP fielded several complaints to 911 about the alert that took over TV and radio.

Insp. Patrick Morris, the Orillia OPP detachment commander, said he is "disappointed" with the calls and tweets of viewers annoyed by the alert.

"While I will apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused, we won't apologize for using all of the tools available to us to find a missing child."

Many Ontarians were equally disappointed that others prioritized TV over a potentially abducted child and applauded the OPP for issuing the alert.

Morris said he received calls asking why the alert was broadcast outside of the area where the incident occurred.

"Well, the last Amber Alert was about a year ago and the subjects of the Amber Alert were located three hours away by vehicle from the jurisdiction where they were reported missing," he said.

"The geography rapidly expands."

Premier Kathleen Wynne, who was watching Downton Abbey Sunday night, said she was impressed by "an alert that was that pervasive and that obvious." 

"I was very impressed actually that it flashed on all of our TV screens right at a time when a lot of people would have been watching a show on a Sunday night."

In the past, an Amber Alert would appear as a scrolling banner at the bottom of TV screens. However, the new notifications through the National Alert Aggregation and Dissemination system appear over the broadcast.

The Amber Alert was a first for Orillia. Over 13 years, there have been 33 alerts issued in Ontario.

With files from the Canadian Press

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