Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl and the mother of a woman who went missing and was later found dead are not giving up on trying to change the criteria in an emergency-alert system.
Strahl has been working closely with Alina Durham, mother of Shaelene Keeler Bell, to try and get the wording changed in the Amber Alert system to include victims over the age of 18.
Bell, a 23-year-old Chilliwack mother, went missing on Jan. 30, 2021. Her body was found on June 2, 2021 in the Fraser River near Coquitlam.
Strahl and his team have been doing “extensive research” to determine how to go about changing the Amber Alert criteria, he stated in an email to The Progress. Amber Alerts are governed by provincial law enforcement policy and agreements, not legislation.
“When it became clear from our research and responses from the government that this matter could not be resolved by changing federal legislation, I decided to call on the federal government to take leadership on this file and advocate for changes with law enforcement agencies by introducing a private member’s motion in the House of Commons.”
A private member’s motion can provide direction to the government without changing a law, he added. It is a way to raise awareness on a matter of importance to an MP and his or her constituents even if that matter cannot be resolved by changing legislation alone.
“My draft motion is being reviewed by legislative counsel at the House of Commons,” Strahl said. “Once the motion is determined to be in order, it can be introduced in the House of Commons during the daily routine proceedings when Private Members’ Business bills and motions are introduced.”
The question now is when the motion will be up for debate.
The order in which a private member’s bill or motion is selected for a formal debate in the House of Commons is determined by a lottery at the beginning of each Parliament.
“I drew number 230 in that lottery, which means an item I introduce may not come up for a debate for many months if at all, depending on the length of this Parliament,” Strahl said. “That will not stop me from promoting the motion in the community and across the country once it is introduced, which I am confident can be done during the spring session of Parliament.”
Durham was extremely grateful for the work Strahl and his team have done.
“Thank you… for helping me to keep Shaelene’s legacy going by thinking of others which Shaelene totally believed in,” Durham said.
But since Strahl can only bring awareness to the issue, Durham’s focus is now at the provincial level.
Since Amber Alerts are governed by provincial law enforcement policies, Durham has reached out to Chilliwack MLA Dan Coulter and Chilliwack-Kent MLA Kelli Paddon.
“I’m hoping they will step up to the plate, like Mark, and make improvements,” Durham said.
She wants Chilliwack’s MLAs to help her in her efforts to change the Amber Alert system criteria to include adults.
“I do believe it can be done and I do believe it should be done,” she said. “I’m not going to give up. I want to be able to honour Shaelene.”