MLAs bring Missing Persons bill to Beaufort Delta for review

Frank Gruben in early spring 2023 in Fort Smith just before he went missing. (Photo courtesy Gruben family.)

The territory’s pending Missing Persons Act might not go as far as some advocates had hoped, as police investigations of any kind need to maintain a certain amount of confidentiality.

For some anxious loved ones, this can make it look as if investigators aren’t working as hard as they might be if the missing individual was not of Indigenous heritage and not a member of the LGBTQ community, elected officials have said.

Range Lake MLA Kieron Testart. (Photo courtesy NT Assembly livestream.)

Such was the case almost one year ago, when 30-year-old Aklavik resident Frank Gruben mysteriously went missing in early May 2023 while in Fort Smith where he was attending school.

Members of the Assembly’s Standing Committee on Social Development were in Aklavik and Inuvik this week to gather feedback on Bill 2, The Missing Persons Act.

Committee member Kieron Testart, who is MLA for Range Lake, told CKLB the committee heard passionate and emotional presentations, including the Gruben family.

“The committee felt very strongly that we needed to bring the bill to the people who are perhaps have the highest profile case of a missing person in history with the Frank Gruben Jr. case, and that’s why we came up here to go to Aklavik and hear directly from the family and the community.”

Former Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler told the NWT Assembly in late May 2023 she had spoken with Frank’s mother.

She wondered if this was a case of a non-Indigenous person “from a wealthy family, would there be more done?”

Semmler, who is now Health and Social Services minister, added: “That’s what goes to my mind. Would there be more (done) to find him?”

MLA Testart said police have investigative reasons for holding information back, especially in the early stages of a case.

Health and Social Services Minister Lesa Semmler. (Photo courtesy NT Assembly livestream.)

“The RCMP is very, very cautious about information sharing its results, because even if on the face of it, it seems well intentioned, it can actually be a criminal matter, and the individual seems well intentioned and responsible.”

What the new law will do is help police do their work and bring the NWT up to the standards of most other jurisdictions in Canada.

Under the proposed legislation, which could become law this summer, if a person is reported missing, the RCMP would have powers to investigate the person’s circumstances, even if there is no criminal element to the case.

Investigators armed with a record access order will be able to access any known records associated with the missing person.

This ranges from telephone and other electronic communications, video surveillance recordings, records of employment information, personal health information, travel and accommodation records, financial records, and internet browsing history.

The RCMP are aware that some people disappear and do not want to be found.

This can be for a variety of reasons, including intimate partner violence.

But there’s nothing to indicate Frank Gruben doesn’t want to be found.

RCMP remain engaged in the investigation, although all leads have been exhausted and any help from the public would be appreciated.

Anyone with information about Gruben’s disappearance can call any RCMP detachment, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, or via crime stoppers’ website.

The Social Development Committee’s next public meeting on Bill 2: Missing Persons Act is in Yellowknife at the NWT Legislative Assembly Wednesday, April 17, at 7 p.m.



About the Author

James O'Connor
James O’Connor joined CKLB 101.9 FM at the start of 2024, after working as a journalist, photo editor and managing editor at newspapers in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. James also has experience in politics, arts, service clubs and the NWT’s non-profit sector. At this point in his lengthy career, James is thrilled to be working at such a unique media outlet and always welcomes notes from listeners at: