Volunteers pool resources as search for 2 missing people in Thunder Bay continues
Efforts continue to find Joseph Alexander Lawson, 65, woman later found safe
Since this story was first published, the missing woman was reported safe by the Thunder Bay police on Jan. 27. Her name and photo have been removed as it is no longer in the public interest.
Volunteers have consolidated their efforts to find Joseph Alexander Lawson and a missing woman as the search for them continues in Thunder Bay, Ont.
The search for Lawson, who is known as Alex and is a member of Lac Seul First Nation, and a woman who is a member of Sachigo Lake First Nation, have been ongoing for a few weeks. Family members have flown into Thunder Bay from surrounding First Nations communities and local volunteers have combed the city.
Lawson was last seen in November in the 200 block of Madeline Street in the Grandview area, where he'd been living.
The 65-year-old is described as a five-foot-six Indigenous man with a medium build, brown eyes and long, straight grey hair, who often has facial hair. He was last seen wearing a black baseball cap, a light-coloured North Face puffer jacket with a dark upper area, blue jeans and black shoes.
His family has become increasingly concerned about his safety since his last confirmed sighting on Nov. 27. They've launched a Facebook page called "Missing Person Alex Lawson," which has more than 800 followers, created an email address to streamline communications and have been posting Facebook ads about his disappearance for weeks.
Kim Lawson, Lawson's daughter, told CBC News on Sunday that there have been possible sightings since the end of November, but none has been confirmed. One challenge is video retention, since many businesses have deleted their security camera footage since then.
The Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS) last issued a news update about Lawson's disappearance on Jan. 12, commending the community's efforts in helping with grid searches and encouraging people to keep their eyes peeled. Police confirmed that investigators have received numerous reports of more recent sightings of Lawson throughout the city, but to date, "no other sighting has been confirmed since Nov. 27."
Kim Lawson said police are taking the case seriously, and investigators have been responsive to her calls. The community has also been responsive, and she said she's grateful for volunteers' efforts to keep the search going.
"It's really heartwarming to see that, you know, there are people that are taking it upon themselves just to keep an eye out for him, just to check in the area. It made it a little easier … we felt we weren't so alone trying to find our dad."
Her dad has been known to walk long distances, but she said he's never disappeared like this. He's usually in close contact with his sister, but the family hasn't heard from him since around the time he was last seen.
"We don't want to forget about my dad," she said. "We think about him every day. It's been pretty hard on us, just not knowing where he is. We've reached out so many times and if somebody knows [where he is], just let us know. We just want to know that he's OK."
Recently, search efforts for Lawson have been consolidated with another missing person's case.
Her family, like Lawson's, has also been vocal in appealing to the public about her whereabouts. A Facebook group has more than 300 members.
Her father, Norman Moonias, spoke with CBC News on Sunday and said his daughter has been going through a difficult time due to recent deaths in the family. He suspected something was wrong when she didn't wish him a happy birthday in December or contact him over the Christmas holidays.
Moonias, a stay-at-home-dad, lives in Neskantaga First Nation, an Ojibway community 436 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay. He's been in the city for a while, assisting search efforts and said he'll feel "unfulfilled" if he goes home without knowing she is safe. Her siblings are just as worried as he is.
He encourages anyone with information about his daughter to contact him or the police. He is hoping to hear from her, saying there have been possible sightings but none that have been confirmed.
"I can't go on false hope," he said.
Community volunteers have formed a "command centre" at Thunder Bay's Ramada Inn to consolidate search efforts for both missing people. Gas station gift cards and refreshments have been provided to those assisting with the search.
There were 614 missing persons investigations conducted by the Thunder Bay Police Service in 2021, according to the agency's annual report that year.
- A previous version of this story said the woman is from Neskantaga First Nation. In fact, she is a member of Sachigo Lake First Nation.Jan 23, 2023 4:40 PM ET