It has been more than three weeks since Autumn Shaganash, a woman from Barrie, was last seen or heard from by her family.
As her loved ones expand their search for her, they speak out to urge the public to help with the effort. There are fears that she could become a victim of human trafficking.
Barrie police told CBC Toronto that human trafficking could be behind her disappearance.
“This is very different from Autumn doing this. Her family knows her very well. She would be on the phone to contact her grandparents and her sister,” Kimberly Moore, Shaganash’s cousin, said in an interview .
“Something is very wrong and we need to find out what happened and where she is. We need to get her home.”
Shaganash’s mother, father, sister, cousin and uncle, along with volunteers, are putting up posters around the Greater Toronto Area in the hope that someone will know where she is and contact them.
The 26-year-old was last seen on June 9 as she left her sister Lili Moore’s home, where she lived. Shaganash told Moore she was going to see a friend and come back later. That same night, Shaganash texted her sister at around 11pm saying she would stay out later and be back in the morning.
But she never returned. At 9:30 am the next morning, she texted her sister asking to be picked up.
“By the time I was able to respond to her three minutes later, my messages weren’t getting through. She wasn’t giving me the location she was at, she wasn’t responding to me,” said Moore.
The family shared home security camera video with CBC Toronto showing her leaving her house that night, passing a nearby grocery store and crossing the street to meet someone.
“She doesn’t message anyone. Then I started to worry,” she said.
Family fears human trafficking
Barrie police said Shaganash was officially reported missing on June 12 and the investigation is ongoing. It said the force is using Twitter and Facebook to share information about Shaganash and hopes someone who knows where she is will get in touch.
Police told CBC Toronto that she could be a victim of human trafficking. The Barrie Police Department describes human trafficking on its website as a human rights violation that may include sex and labor trafficking. Often the victims are young adolescents who are “trying to fit in” and traffickers gain their trust through manipulation or threats.
An indicator of human trafficking is having a new partner who has not yet met family, receiving new gifts, becoming more isolated from family and friends or being secretive about online activities, according to the website.
Shaganash was last seen wearing a black hoodie, shorts, Puma loafers and a black or brown handbag.
Angela Boyer, the missing and murdered Indigenous team leader for the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre, an agency serving Indigenous communities, said multiple Indigenous organizations are helping the family with the search.
Mothers of child victims of trafficking have also come forward to help the family, she said.
“These young girls are becoming vulnerable, and that’s what these men are looking for… what they’re after,” she said.
The timeline of her disappearance, and Shaganash suddenly not responding to messages, is alarming, Boyer said. The family is considering the possibility of human trafficking, she said.
“The family just wants answers. And that’s what we’re doing, putting up posters at every possible motel,” she said. “The strip clubs…the areas that need to be addressed.”
Right now, the best way the public can help is to get Shaganash known by sharing her information on social media or putting up posters, Boyer said.
Barrie police need more leads, mom says
Esther Moore, Shaganash’s mother, said police must step up their efforts as the family put up posters in multiple neighborhoods.
“I feel like (the police) aren’t really helping us,” Moore said.
She said she fears human trafficking is possible because her daughter has not contacted family.
‘We know her. She’s not doing it voluntarily… Is she being held against her will, can’t she contact us?’ she said.
CBC Toronto has asked Barrie police about Moore’s comments and is awaiting a response.
Shaganash was funny, enjoyed spending time with friends and family, and loved going for walks, Moore said. She said she and her daughter spoke regularly on Facebook Messenger.
For now, relatives said they won’t stop looking until they find her.
“We want her to know we love her and when you’re there, Autumn, give us a call,” said Clarence Moore, Shaganash’s uncle.
“Please come home.”