Glen Grier, from Stony Plain, Alta., wanted to send his son a birthday message. Scott Grier, 36, had been living on the streets in Victoria, B.C., and his dad hadn’t heard from him in a while.
He made a discovery that’s perhaps a parent’s worst fear: finding out through a Google search last week that his child was dead — and has been for the past eight months.
“It got me thinking, nobody notified me so maybe it’s not him, maybe it’s somebody else,” Grier said.
“Things start to go through your head.”
Scott had a hard life. He struggled with addictions and experienced homelessness. He moved from Edmonton to Victoria in 2019, but checked in with family every few months.
Grier said Scott didn’t always have a phone, so family had a hard time reaching him sometimes and waited on Scott to contact them.
Last week, Grier noted it had been too long since he’d last heard from his son. He wanted to call so Scott could talk to his seven-year-old daughter, who is in Grier and his wife Michelle’s care.
Grier, who at times became overwhelmed with emotion when speaking with Global News, described his son as a free spirit and fun person.
“He was a wonderful kid, very happy, full of energy. Very loving.”
On Jan. 18 – Scott’s birthday – Grier searched his son’s name online, like he’s done before when trying to make contact.
“Right on the top was the missing persons (report) that we did in 2020, where they successfully found him … and right under that is his obituary,” Grier said.
Grier said the posting was blank except for a name, date of birth and that Scott had died May 16, 2022.
Through talking to police, the coroner and funeral home the next day, Grier found out finger prints confirmed it was his son, who was cremated and buried eight months ago in Victoria’s Hatley Memorial Gardens cemetery.
Grier said no effort was made to contact Scott’s family.
When a person with no fixed address dies in B.C., the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) is notified.
If the deceased was under the age of 65 and was receiving benefits from B.C.’s ministry of social development and poverty reduction (MSDPR), that ministry deals with the person’s funeral arrangements.
For those who weren’t an MSDPR client, the PGT said it determines if the deceased had enough assets to pay for funeral costs and PGT fees. If the person did not have enough assets, PGT will not search extensively for next of kin.
According to a spokesperson from the MSDPR, the coroner in Victoria contacted the PGT about Scott’s death, who determined there was no estate to manage, so the ministry took over and paid to have Scott cremated and his ashes buried.
The funeral home posted Scott’s obituary online as a courtesy, in hopes a family member would come across it. They are not legally required to do so.
Grier had filed a missing persons report with Victoria police for Scott in 2020, and Scott’s full name and birthday was on the obituary page.
Since the authorities knew Scott’s identity, Grier said the ministry must not have looked very hard if it couldn’t connect him to his son.
“They could have just asked the Victoria Police Department because it was me that filed the missing persons report. They have my name and my number,” he said.
“How did they have his proper name and his proper birthday for them to put (the obituary) up? Somebody had to know something.”
Grier said he understands there are homeless people whose next of kin is hard or impossible to find, but that wasn’t the case here.
“Do they not put the effort into it? I don’t understand why.”
Grier said he thought this had only happened to his family, but said he started hearing from other people that’s how they found out about the deaths of loved ones too.
Now, he and his wife are warning other families they might need to look online if they haven’t heard from a loved one in a while.
“If you’re missing someone, maybe Google them, as weird as that sounds,” Michelle said.
Even though he is left with so much pain and many questions, Grier hopes sharing his experience will help lead to change.
He’s speaking out in hopes other families won’t find out about a loved one’s death in the same way.
“You don’t want to see it happen to other people.
“It’s such a hard way.”