‘You always have to have hope’: Conrad Burns leads new search for Happy Charles

Happy Mary Charles was last seen in Prince Albert in April.

Another search for Happy Charles will take place this weekend, organized by the police service’s new missing persons liaison, Conrad Burns.

Burns, a former mayoral candidate, started in the position in mid-October. He said the search for Charles is the first one he’s organized in his new post.

“We’re continuing to look for new leads and will hopefully find resolution to her going missing,” Burns said. “It’s very stressful for the family and for the community surrounding them, because they don’t have a resolution to their feelings.”

Charles went missing in Prince Albert this April. She had travelled to the city from her home in La Ronge, and was last seen in the vicinity of Prince Albert Collegiate. Her family has been searching for her since.

Her step-father, Carson Poitras, said the same dedicated group of friends, family and volunteers have driven the effort. They’ve borne a heavy burden, and Poitras is happy to have Burns take off some of the weight.

“We need someone like him to organize a search when we’re not able to go down,” he said.

The searchers are set to depart from the Tim Horton’s at 2 Ave. West and 15 Street West at 10 a.m. From there, Burns plans to lead a group through areas north of the city – around One Stop Convenience in Red Wing – and then through some territory by the water treatment plant.

Poitras said his family will go in a different direction. “We’re hoping that day he’ll have some success without us,” he said of Burns. He doubts they’ll attract a large search party, but hopes a fresh group of volunteers will have success where past searches have failed.

He wonders why the family has had trouble attracting more searchers. Since the beginning, their group has usually hovered between 16 and 20 committed volunteers.

“I’m not sure why we struggle for numbers looking for our daughter. It bewilders me,” Poitras said. “If it were somebody else’s loved one, maybe there would be other people coming out.”

But Poitras is still pleased to see the support Burns will provide to families. Throughout their difficult ordeal, the family has raised concerns about the need for a coordinator to help families navigate the system and access resources.

“Every family we’ve talked to has gone through the whole thing, they’ve got to start from scratch,” he said. “(Now) they’ve got all those resources readily available without having to scramble.”

Burns said he loves being in a job where he can “help people and give them support.” After so many months of searching, the outlook might look grim. But Burns isn’t ready to give up hope on finding Charles.

“You always have to have hope and believe that you will find them,” he said. Hope is what’s pushing you forward.”

Anyone with information on the Happy Charles case should call the Prince Albert Police Service at 306-953-4222 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.