British Columbia

Mother marks son's 25th birthday with return to B.C. city where he was last seen more than 10 years ago

On what would be her son's 25th birthday, Georgina Degerness returned to the city where she last saw him to sing "Happy Birthday" and appeal for information about his disappearance more than 10 years ago.

'It's a hell, living like this,' Gina Degerness says of not knowing what happened to son Lucas

Gina Degerness holds up a photo of her son, Lucas, who disappeared from Prince George, B.C. in 2007. Though Degerness now lives in Edmonton, she returns to Prince George every year for Lucas' birthday. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

On her son's 25th birthday, Georgina Degerness returned to the city where she last saw him to sing "Happy Birthday" and appeal for information about his disappearance more than 10 years ago.

Lucas "Luke" Degerness went missing from Prince George, B.C., in June 2007. He was 14 years old. 

Even if the news is bad, Degerness said, knowing what happened would be better than the uncertainty she is dealing with now.

"It's a hell, living like this... It's a terrible, terrible limbo," she said.

"I want my son back, [but] if I can't have him back... we need to know."

Cups with the words 'happy birthday' hold candles at a vigil for Lucas Degerness on his 25th birthday. Degerness went missing in June 2007 from Prince George, B.C.

Disappeared after school meeting

Degerness and her children had been living in Edmonton when, she said, she discovered Lucas was becoming involved with gangs.

She relocated to her hometown of Prince George in an effort to get him out of the cycle, but he was still having trouble in school.

On June 7, 2007, Degerness and Lucas had a meeting with the school's vice-principal.

Near the end of the meeting, Lucas was told to wait in another room while Degerness and the vice-principal finished up. Instead, he left the school without his mother.

A small group of people gathered at the Prince George court house for a vigil marking the 25th birthday of Lucas Degerness, who went missing in 2007. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

It's known he spent the night at a friend's house, and Degerness thought he would return or reach out the next day. When he didn't, she reported him missing to RCMP.

"He just disappeared," she said.

Degerness stayed in Prince George for four years afterward, hoping Lucas would return. She then moved back to Edmonton, thinking she might be able to find him there.

Now she returns to Prince George every year for Lucas's birthday, hoping someone will come forward with information.

Phone call a source of hope

Degerness said she has received various tips that give her hope Lucas is alive. Some reported sightings of him in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, which she has visited only to come up empty.

In 2014, a man who identified themselves as Lucas called the MissingKids.ca hotline looking for his mother's contact information, but the hotline did not provide the information due to privacy concerns and the caller has not reached out again.

Watch a video of Gina Degerness asking for information about her missing son after the 2014 phone call.

It’s what every parent of a missing child aches for. A phone call saying their child is still alive. In April 2014 a man claiming to be Luke Degerness called the MissingKids.ca hotline. He said he was looking for his mother’s contact. 4:11

"It renewed my hopes," Degerness said, but she fears it could be "some misguided person trying to comfort me."

Missing men and boys

Degerness said while her main concern is finding out what happened to Lucas, she also wants to shine a light on missing and murdered Indigenous men across the country. 

In 2015, Statistics Canada reported the homicide rate for Indigenous men is over six times that for non-Indigenous men and nearly three times that for Indigenous women.

"Society has this perception that males can take care of themselves better," Degerness said. 

"I don't think that's true. He [Lucas] was a child."​

Anyone with information is asked to contact RCMP or the missingkids.ca tip line at 1-866-543-8477.

A missing person poster for Lucas Degerness includes his details, a photo and an artist's sketch. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

With files from Audrey McKinnon

About the Author

Andrew Kurjata

CBC Prince George | @akurjata

Andrew Kurjata is an award-winning journalist covering Northern British Columbia for CBC Radio and cbc.ca, situated in the traditional territory of the Lheidli T'enneh in Prince George. You can email him at andrew.kurjata@cbc.ca.