Amanda Sophia Bartlett
Missing Since July 1996
Featured in Episode 215
Amanda was a Pimicikamak band member but resided for most of her life on Opaswayak Cree Nation near The Pas, Manitoba. In 1996, her parents separated and her 14-year-old sister Janet went to live with their father in New Brunswick while Amanda remained behind on tribal land with their mother. She is described as intelligent, creative, and gullible for love. Amanda dreamed of becoming a published author and loved to read.
For reasons that have not been made clear, Amanda was soon sent to Winnipeg by Child and Family Services and placed in a group home in the city. In July of 1996, Amanda ran away from the CFS-run group home, and although employees at the home observed Amanda leaving, they did not follow or attempt to stop her because she was 17.
Amanda's last known sighting was on the streets of Winnipeg’s North End, near Selkirk and Salter Streets, by her uncle,Joseph Halcrow, and she apparently told him that she was alone in the city. Joseph offered to let her stay at his house, and Amanda stated that she would make her way there but she never arrived and has never been heard from again.
It has been speculated that Amanda may have been heading for British Columbia when she disappeared, perhaps hoping to travel to a city with a high population of young runaways or even to join her sister in New Brunswick. Highway 16, nicknamed the Highway of Tears for its role in the murders and disappearances of many Indigenous women since the 1970s, runs west from Winnipeg to British Columbia. If Amanda had perhaps taken rides from strangers along the highway it is sadly all too possible that she may have come to harm by someone who picked her up. This is all just speculation though, since no one has seen or heard from her since that unspecified day in July. No one can even say exactly what day she went missing!
No one besides CFS and Amanda’s uncle had any idea that she had left the group home and was missing, least of all the rest of her family. Several weeks after she disappeared, her mother received a letter stating that Amanda had run away from the group home, but that since she was 17 Child and Family Services stated they had no obligation to follow her when she left.
After the letter, there was no further contact from either social services or law enforcement. Various family members tried to report Amanda's disappearance to the police in 1996, but they were turned away by officers who informed them that the RCMP was "not responsible for family reunions''. To add insult to injury, Amanda's sister, Janet Lowther, quickly discovered that Amanda had not only never been reported as missing, but did not even have an open case file.
Due to the RCMP's reluctance to open the case and only after being passed back and forth between the Pas police and the Winnipeg police for years, Janet was finally able to report her sister as missing in 2008.
This wasn’t an easy task however. Janet finally got her foot in the door in 2007 when she involved Amnesty International, a global movement devoted to human rights of Indigenous People in her fight to find Amanda. They connected her to ChildFind Canada, who were able to finally convince the RCMP to open Amanda's file as a missing person. It had been over 12 years since she had disappeared. Let that sink in. It took RCMP 12 years to open a missing persons case for Amanda because they “don’t do family reunions.”
In 2012 Project Devote, a task force for missing and murdered cases in Manitoba, took on Amanda’s case, which means there will finally be a chance to investigate the discrepancies in in the case. Family members still struggle to accept how difficult it was to report a missing loved one to authorities, and have the case taken seriously.
Meanwhile, Janet wonders what happened to her sister. She stated, “She never applied for a SIN, or a Social Insurance Number, number, driver’s license, status or social assistance. Amanda’s MB health card, a card (or registration certificate) issued by Manitoba Health to all Manitoba residents, which includes a 9-digit lifetime identification number and entitles said person to health benefits, is still being sent to my mom’s mailing address, which shows me that she never changed her address. Amanda vanished into thin air. She was here, and now she is gone.”
Amanda was 5'7 and 150 pounds at the time of her disappearance. She has black hair, brown eyes, and pierced ears.
If you have any information regarding the disappearance or whereabouts of Amanda Bartlett, you are encouraged to contact the Winnipeg RCMP at 204-983-5461, or call the missing persons unit at 204-986-6250. You may also contact Crime Stoppers at 204-786-8477 with any information.