'Our hopes are fading': Search for missing 5-year-old Frank Young enters 3rd week
Advocates are calling for an Indigenous alert system for missing people
It's now day 22 of the search for a missing five-year-old boy from Red Earth Cree Nation.
Frank Young was last seen outside his home, 300 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon, on the afternoon of April 19. He was also seen at a playground in the northern part of the community.
At the time Young was living with his aunt and uncle. The boy's parents live at the Shoal Lake Cree Nation.
In an update today, Red Earth Cree First Nation Chief Fabian Head said he continues to be hopeful. He said he is thankful for the continued support from volunteers and cooks, and also thanks elders for offering their wisdom as the search continues.
But that hope may be waning.
Edward "Dutch" Lerat, second vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), said the organization is very concerned for Young's family.
"We continue to to hope and pray that Frank will be found safe. However, as time passes, our hopes are fading," Lerat said.
Calls for an Indigenous alert system
RCMP still say there is no sign of abduction. They say all tips are being followed.
"We are still getting tips at this point. Many of them are visions or dreams, but they are followed up with. And at this time, none of those tips have given us any information about what happened to Frank," said Sergeant Richard Tonge, with the RCMP's Carrot River detachment.
Meanwhile, advocates are calling for an Indigenous alert system. First Nations groups say separate notifications are needed to help find missing Indigenous people whose disappearance doesn't fit the criteria for an Amber Alert.
"There's a lack of awareness, and when an Indigenous person goes missing, it's not taken seriously," said Aly Bear, third vice-chief of the FSIN.
"It's just on us, and we make the posts on Facebook, but it's not the same as alerting the whole community."
The federation, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, said an Indigenous alert system is needed because Amber Alerts don't apply to all missing persons.
Amber Alerts are sent out on cellphones, television and radio to notify the public and ask for help in locating an abducted child believed to be in danger.
The RCMP said Young's disappearance still does not meet the criteria for an Amber Alert. But they said they have sent out a SaskAlert.
"Also, we've had extensive social media posts people have been sharing. Now we've had these media availabilities and the message has been out there."
When asked about the calls for an Indigenous alert system, Shoal Lake Cree Nation Chief Marcel Head said he is not concerned with that at this time.
"At this time we're not too sure as to what the focus is going to be. Our focus is specifically for Frank ... I wouldn't really go there unless it's really specific with the point of searching for Frank. That should be the main focus at this time," Marcel Head said.
In a statement to the CBC, Saskatchewan RCMP said that the Carrot River RCMP has carefully considered – and reassessed regularly — all evidence and information.
"What's important to note is that just because an [Amber] alert wasn't issued, that doesn't lessen in any way how seriously we take a report of a missing child. We have extensive, specialized RCMP resources dedicated to the search for Frank," said the statement.
Fabian Head said that as of Tuesday, 92 square kilometres have been searched around the community. That search has included 200 volunteers and 13 search groups.
Tong said he doesn't know when police will call off the search. He said the search is evaluated on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, crew continue to focus their search efforts on Carrot River. Tonge said a helicopter flies over the body of water every second day.
With files from Mickey Djuric with The Canadian Press