Disappearance of Raheem White: family says the case is getting cold

It’s been nearly six months since Raheem White was reported missing in Toronto’s Junction neighborhood and his mother, Rosemarie, says she feels the investigation is stalling.

Rosemarie White spoke to CTV News Toronto on the phone from her home in Jamaica, recalling Raheem’s childhood growing up in Brampton, Ont.

“He always got along with everyone,” she said. “Raheem is a wonderful young man.”

White said Raheem took part in Little League baseball and taekwondo as a child, before becoming a youth minister in his teens and developing an interest in music. Throughout his childhood, Raheem continued to attend his local church.

At the time of his disappearance, Raheem was working as a local DJ and had plans to move in with his girlfriend, his relatives said.

With each passing day, White says she continues to pray for her son’s safety.

THE DISAPPEARANCE

Raheem was last seen Dec. 1 in Toronto’s Osler Street and Pelham Avenue neighborhood around 3:30 p.m., according to police. He was last seen wearing a black jacket, black pants, an orange toque and a black backpack.

A vehicle belonging to Raheem has since been found by investigators, with his wallet and personal belongings inside. His cellphone remains missing.

Rosemarie said that in the time leading up to Raheem’s disappearance, there was nothing to indicate that anything was wrong, nor was she aware that her son had mental health issues.

She thinks he was taken.

Raheem’s former roommate and close friend, Stefen Coward, said he spoke to Raheem regularly before his disappearance. The last time the two saw each other was on November 29, two days before Raheem was reported missing.

“It looked like nothing was going on,” he said, adding that Raheem had visited him to sign labor papers to work with him on building sets for television shows in the Greater Toronto Area.

“There was no real indication, no real sign.”

THE RESEARCH

Although Raheem was reported missing on December 1, police did not contact Rosemarie that day. Instead, she was the first to establish a line of communication on Dec. 2, police confirmed.

Since then, there have been a number of delays in receiving police updates in Rosemarie due to staff shortages and relocations.

Maureen Trask, an Ontario advocate for missing persons and their families, was approached by Rosemarie during the first week that Raheem went missing.

Trask told CTV News Toronto that she works as a lawyer because her own son, Daniel Trask, went missing for three and a half years in 2011 before his remains were found. During that process, she said she “realized how little service is available to families to help them not just understand the process” [of a missing persons case]but to understand their role.”

After being detained by Rosemarie, Trask said she “immediately” contacted the Toronto Police Department, providing them with a list of 26 unanswered questions about the investigation on behalf of the family. Her first goal was to create clear lines of communication between the police and the police. Whites, she said.

According to Trask, it took Toronto police nearly a month to commit to providing weekly updates, which they have done ever since, although Rosemarie says the frequency of communications tends to vary.

Despite this, Trask says she will not sanction the Toronto police.

“That’s not uncommon — in every jurisdiction across Canada.”

While she has received investigative updates from police, Rosemarie said she was not asked to participate in a formal, taped interview until May 11 — nearly six months after her son was first reported missing — despite her repeated requests to do so. to do.

†[We’ve been] yelling for them to do it,” Rosemarie said. “This is why I had to find a lawyer.”

When asked for comment, a Toronto Police Department spokesperson confirmed to CTV News Toronto that Rosemarie participated in her first formal interview with police on May 11, but emphasized that she “communicates weekly with [Raheem’s] mother.”

“The Toronto Police Department takes missing persons investigations extremely seriously and our agents are committed to finding people as quickly as possible, using significant resources from across the service to support our efforts,” they said.

“If anyone believes there is information that we are not aware of, they should contact us immediately.”

Rosemarie also says there aren’t enough resources to research all of the tips she receives, and by the time tips are researched, their relevance has diminished.

“Oh my god, I’ve had so many sightings,” she said. “We have had tips every week, people regularly message me.”

“But if [Raheem] is seen today, and [police] don’t get the message until four days later, [is he] waiting for you in the same place? I do not think so.”

SUPPORT NEEDED FOR FAMILIES OF MISSING PEOPLE

Trask says families of missing persons in Canada as well as police forces across the country need standardized support and resources when it comes to missing persons. That’s why she advocates for a national missing persons framework – something she says has been implemented by many countries and ensures “accountability, transparency and consistency”.

She says it took six years of advocacy for Ontario to pass the Missing Persons Act, which came into effect in 2019, expanding police powers to locate missing persons, even if no criminal investigation is underway.

“Police work in Canada, at least for missing persons, is more or less a matter of jurisdiction,” she said. “So there is no consistency, no set procedure when it comes to missing persons.”

Without a consistent approach to missing persons, Trask says it’s difficult to ensure standards are met.

“Consistency of practice is the concern and there is no authority in Canada that can impose minimum standards of policing when it comes to missing persons – nothing.”

In 2019, the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Crime Victims (OFOVC) submitted a report to the Independent Civilian Assessment of the Toronto Police Forces, following the Bruce MacArthur investigation, in which it examined the often strained relationships between loved ones of missing persons. stressed and police.

The report refers to a 2005 survey of Canadian families of missing persons conducted by the Resource Center for Victims of Crime in which 64 percent said they were dissatisfied with the resulting police search, while 74 percent of respondents said the police did not regularly contact them. maintained. informed about what they were doing. The report highlights the negative consequences, such as the ability to cope with traumatic events, when victims’ families are not informed or communicated frequently during an investigation.

STAY CONSCIOUS

Regardless of the status of the police investigation, Rosemarie says she will do everything she can to bring her son’s case to the fore.

“I’m not going to say it doesn’t hurt me, but I have to put it in God’s hands,” she said.

“I have to keep consciousness out there. That’s what I’m really looking for. That’s why I’m doing this.”

Meanwhile, she asks anyone with information about the case to come forward.

“I believe someone knows where my son is,” she said. “Someone must know something.”

Toronto Police also asks anyone with information about Raheem’s disappearance to contact them at 416-808-2222.

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