Korean Man Face of BC Silver Alert Campaign

by Emma Lee, 21/09/2014

On September 18 2013, Pastor Shin Noh left his Coquitlam home for his morning walk. That was the last time his family saw him. One year later, despite sighting reports in the early months, no trace has been found of the 64 year old. His son and a small army of supporters and volunteers (Koreans and non-Koreans) spent months following up on tips that had the elderly man reportedly spotted in communities as far away as New Westminster and Burnaby. Those sightings were never conclusive but, at the time, it was believed that Noh, who suffered from Alzheimer's, might have taken a bus or sky train into one of the nearby cities. 

Mr. Noh's family were very touched by the number and dedication of the volunteers who have helped search for the missing pastor, especially the generosity of time and money displayed by non-Koreans in the area. Over the past twelve months, the family’s anguish has turned to advocacy. Sam Noh recently explained how the loss of hope has been harder to bear than the fear and anxiety he felt when his dad disappeared last September because at least then, there were sighting reports and a chance his father could be found alive. Twelve months later, he has given up on the idea that his dad will be found alive and is putting his energies towards finding a solution so that other families won't have to go through the ordeal his family has experienced.

In February, MLA (member of the 'provincial' legislative assembly) Selina Robinson, of the opposition New Democratic Party, brought forward a private member's bill calling on the government to implement a Silver Alert program. Like the Amber Alert used for missing children, the bill would create a program that would alert the public of a missing person, likely a senior, who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of cognitive impairment. The governing BC Liberals have expressed a lack of willingness to support the program although they have said they see the need. Elsewhere in Canada, the province of Ontario has a Silver Alert program, as do nearly three dozen states in the United States.  The first Silver Alert program began in 2005 in the American state of Oklahoma in 2005.

Until the provincial government institutes a more comprehensive program, Noh and others who have had elderly family members go missing, have worked on creating an initial programme - bcsilveralert.ca - that will cover the Lower Mainland area of British Columbia. Launched on 20 September, the site uses Lower Mainland police missing person feeds to gather information about the elderly, people with Alzheimer's, dementia and developmental disabilities who go missing. The information will then be sent out via social media to spread the word. The Twitter feed uses the hash tag #silveralert.

Sam Noh strongly believes his father could have been found had such a program been available a year ago and he hopes government officials will put some resources into education, policies and procedures that could lead to a provincial program.

This very sad and distressing incident, involving a Korean family in Canada, may have a silver lining in that it appears to be bringing about some changes in how searches for missing elderly are handled. Given the aging population in Korea, we may also want to be looking at initiating similar programs here (unless there are some already - if yes, please post information on the K4E Forum so that it can be passed on). In this way, NOH Shin will have made a contribution to the life of seniors in his home country as well as his adopted one.

Our thoughts are with the Noh family on this sad anniversary.



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