Missing persons DNA databank running 1 year behind schedule

The federal government has pushed back the rollout of a new DNA databank for missing persons and unidentified human remains to 2018.

Federal government is reviewing program's 'service delivery model,' but won't say what that means

The family of Lindsey Nicholls, her sister Kim and her mother Judy Peterson, say they're still looking for answers into her 1993 disappearance. (CBC)

The federal government has pushed back the rollout of a new DNA databank for missing persons and unidentified human remains.

The databank was supposed to be up and running by now, but CBC News has learned it won't be launched until next year.

The legislation that makes the program possible is called Lindsey's Law, named after 14-year-old Lindsey Nicholls, who went missing near Courtenay, B.C., in 1993.

"It's very frustrating to get letters saying you know, 'Very sorry for your loss and we're sorry for the delay,' and just nothing seems to be happening," said Lindsey's mother, Judy Peterson.

Three years ago, in its 2014 budget, the federal government committed $8 million to create the DNA-based missing persons index, which would be linked to the RCMP's national DNA databank that contains evidence from crime scenes and convicted offenders. It is hoped coroners, medical examiners and the police could use the index to match missing persons to unidentified human remains.

Peterson said the index is not just a measure to provide comfort to the bereaved.

"This is an important tool that's going to be the final piece in the national DNA databank that links everything together and connects serial offenders," said Peterson. 

No one from the RCMP acknowledged or responded to a request from CBC News for an explanation about the delay.

Now scheduled for 2018

However, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the government remains committed to the index.

"The government will look to implement the program early in 2018. The exact timing of the implementation of the indices will be communicated as soon as it is available," wrote Scott Bardsley.

"To ensure the responsible use of taxpayer dollars, as well as the usefulness of this tool for investigators across Canada, the government is reviewing the program's service delivery model."

When asked what is meant by reviewing the service delivery model, Bardsley responded, "It's not possible to expand on that point right now."

Conservative public safety critic Tony Clement doesn't think much of that response.

"It gnaws at my conscience that the government flippantly puts out that this is now going to be a 2018 project rather than what it should have been," he said.

Clement pointed out the RCMP has a particularly poor record when it comes to rolling out big information technology projects such as the now defunct gun registry.

But Peterson suspects the problem is likely a financial one.

"Anybody who's ever run a project knows you have a deadline and if you get behind, then you put more resources into it. They've had three years since the budget to figure this thing out, and clearly they have not put enough resources into it," Peterson said.


Alison Crawford is a senior reporter in CBC's parliamentary bureau, covering justice, public safety, the Supreme Court and Liberal Party of Canada.