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Harper sends wrong message with tweet about missing person tragedy

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On Tuesday, an eight-day missing person mystery came to a tragic end in Ontario when police discovered the remains of Tim Bosma at an undisclosed location in Waterloo.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined a chorus of people offering condolences online when he posted the following on his official Twitter account (@PMHarper): "My thoughts and prayers go out to Tim Bosma’s family during this difficult time."

Last Thursday, a seven-year missing person mystery came to a tragic end in Winnipeg when police discovered the remains of Myrna Letandre buried inside a Point Douglas rooming house.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has yet to post any comments or condolences about the case on his official Twitter account.

(Ironically, Harper had an up-close view of the local tragedy: He happened to be in Winnipeg on Friday for an announcement on cyberbullying, which is the same day RCMP held a big news conference confirming Letandre’s death. Winnipeg wasn’t entirely forgotten, however. Harper’s Tweets last week did include wishing a "happy birthday" to Winnipeg South MP Rod Bruinooge).

Look, this isn’t meant to be a political rant. Nor is it meant to be a comparison of two terrible tragedies. But anyone with a set of eyes can’t help but notice the optics on this.

And to be frank, the optics stink.

There is a long, troubling and well-documented history in this country of vulnerable First Nations people like Letandre who have vanished without a trace. Some have eventually turned up dead. Many others remain missing.

And there an equally long, troubling and well-documented perception that these types of cases barely get on the radar of the public, let alone police and politicians. It’s why we just went through an extremely damning public inquiry into the Robert Pickton serial killer case in B.C. It’s why joint-task forces have been set up in Alberta and Manitoba to study cases like Letandre’s.

And it’s why someone with Stephen Harper’s clout should be very, very careful about the message he sends when he offers a personal note of sympathy to the family of a white man in Ontario who meets an awful demise – yet remains silent when a native woman from Manitoba who has been missing for seven years turns up dead in equally tragic circumstances.

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About Mike McIntyre

Journalist, national radio show host, author, pundit and cruise director ... Mike McIntyre loves to keep busy.

Mike is the justice reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, where he has worked since 1997. He produces and hosts the weekly talk radio show Crime and Punishment, which runs on the Corus Radio Network in several Canadian cities.

Born and bred in Winnipeg, Mike graduated from River East Collegiate and completed his journalism studies in the Creative Communications program at Red River College.

He and his wife, Chassity, have two children.

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