Bear Clan 'inundated' with number of missing people in Winnipeg
Family grateful for help, knowing group also committed to missing, murdered Indigenous women's cases
The Bear Clan Patrol says it's currently looking for half a dozen people and it is inundated with calls for help from the families of people who have gone missing in Winnipeg.
Bear Clan leader James Favel says there's been a huge spike in the number of volunteers joining the grassroots group since it started up again in July of 2015.
The original Bear Clan Patrol was first formed in 1992, when volunteers offered assistance to people living on the street. The group faded away after a few years.
But when 15-year-old Tina Fontaine's body was found wrapped in a bag in the Red River in August 2014, it was revived.
- Bear Clan, North End street patrol, earns kudos after Cooper Nemeth search, smudge
- Winnipeg cops join Bear Clan on patrol in city's North End
Favel admits with the number of people the group is helping to search for, it's a lot to manage.
"I don't like to say no when people come to us with a genuine need," Favel said.
Favel said this month alone they have had close to 500 volunteers take part in various searches throughout the city. That's up from around 300 in October, he said.
"We've got people from all over the place. It's wonderful to have that kind of support."
But he also said as the group's popularity grows so does the demand for help.
"This is all new to us, I mean we're used to having one or two missing persons at a time, and now we're inundated. We've got half a dozen missing persons that we're currently looking for," Favel said.
Favel said missing teacher Kevin Dilk, 50, is one of them. The school teacher with the Louis Riel School Division went missing last week.
Trent Fraser, 16, is another case the group is helping with. He was last seen in St. Vital on Nov. 20. Bryan Balong, 33, was last seen on Nov. 22.
- Bear Clan says it has 'confirmed sighting' of missing teacher Kevin Dilk
- Winnipeg police look for missing 16-year-old
- Girlfriend, brother plead for help to find missing man
Favel said they are also still helping in the search for Christine Wood of Oxford House who went missing in St. James in August, Maggie Liu in River Heights missing since Oct. 30, and Derwin Beardy of Garden Hill last seen in Selkirk in June.
- Garden Hill First Nation residents search for Derwin Beardy in Winnipeg, Selkirk
- Bear Clan Patrol helps husband search for missing wife
- Bear Clan help in search for missing 21-year-old woman
A number of searches have taken place in St. Boniface which is outside the group's normal area of focus in the North End and inner city, he said.
"That's something extra that we're doing for Kevin Dilk, that's not something we always do."
He also admits managing those searches is not always easy.
"We do have a larger pool or resources but it's still touch and go with availability of volunteers and things like that, so we're stretched pretty thin still."
Family grateful for help
Brad Balong praised the Bear Clan for its efforts in the search for his 33-year-old brother, Bryan. He disappeared on Nov. 22, the day before Dilk was reported missing.
"They've got their hands full but I appreciate their involvement," Brad Balong said.
"I'm aware of their campaign with the missing and murdered aboriginal women and so it was humbling to know that they were willing to come out and search for my brother as well."
Balong said it's "unbelievable" how many people have gone missing in Winnipeg over the past few weeks.
"With the recent missing people like Mr. Dilk and my brother, and I just saw on the missing person's website there's several others, resources are being stretched thin it seems," Balong said.
Balong said his family continues to look for his brother and appreciates any help they can get.
"I can only just accept their support and let them do what they do."