Monthly Archives: August 2020

Help Find Missing NRCan Scientist

August 22, 2020

By: Amy MacPherson

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It is with great regret that I must address a very serious personal matter. As some of you know, my fiancé is a missing person and it’s now been two months since his location was known. I’ve tried to keep this matter private to protect his wellbeing and reputation, as a senior research scientist with Natural Resources Canada. But the consequences of waiting any longer are too great to ignore. as my own health is failing and I will soon be completely blind and unable to communicate through the internet in the effort to find him.

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I also fear that my issue has broader implications, as the cause of my loved one’s missing status is a direct result of Phoenix pay issues that are being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. If this is happening to my family, there may be other families that are impacted in a similar way.

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What follows is my letter to my fiancé’s boss and the president of his union. It lays out everything you need to know to grasp the severity of this situation. The closing of my post will include a description of their responses (or lack thereof) and identifying information. so the public can help me find my partner before anything bad can happen to him.

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I apologize from the bottom of my heart for any embarrassment this may cause him. My actions are motivated by love and not vengeance, as well as duress that I am clearly under. Several friends have encouraged me to involve the police instead of taking this route, but in my decades of experience, law enforcement is the wrong entity to take control of a mental health situation. Their tools are extremely limited to blunt-force instruments and despite the good intentions of police, what’s needed here is a de-escalation. I felt that asking for the public’s help was the lesser of two evils in an impossible scenario. Some of you may disagree, but please know that I tortured myself while thinking this over and coming to a decision.

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(My original email to NRCan contained typos due to my failing vision. I sent two emails in total, to amend those errors. For the sake of what privacy I’m still able to protect, the contact information for my fiancé’s boss has been partially redacted in this publication.)

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From: Amy M <XXXXXX@XXXXXX>

To: Taylor XXXXXX <XXXXXX@canada.ca>

CC: President <XXXXXX@pipsc.ca>

Sent: Tuesday, July 28, 2020 at 5:49pm

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Please forgive any typos. I obviously meant to say Natural Resources Canada. I didn’t realize that auto-correct was entering “National Resources Canada” in error. My vision is so poor that it’s like trying to read through a frosted glass window. I do apologize and no disrespect was intended.

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Yours very truly,

Amy MacPherson

@msamymacpherson

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From: Amy M <XXXXXX@XXXXXX>

To: Taylor XXXXXX <XXXXXX@canada.ca>

CC: President <XXXXXX@pipsc.ca>

Sent: Tuesday, July 28, 2020 at 4:12am

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July 28, 2020 – URGENT Re Missing Scientist

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Attention:

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Taylor XXXXXX

Director XXXXXX

National Resources Canada

XXXXXX XXXXXX

XXXXXX, XXXXXX

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, XXXXXX

Ph: (705) XXXXXXX

Fx: (705) XXXXXXX

Cl: (705) XXXXXXX

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CC:

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Debi Daviau

President PIPSC

XXXXXX

Ottawa, Ontario, XXXXXX

Ph: (613) XXXXXXX

Fx: (613) XXXXXXX

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From:

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Amy MacPherson

XXXXXX XXXXXX

XXXXXX, Ontario, XXXXXX

Ph: (705) XXX-XXXX

Cl: (705) XXXXXXX (preferred)

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Dearest Taylor,

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I deeply regret the need to write to you under these circumstances. It’s not every day that someone’s fiancé becomes a missing person, sparking a process of engaging with emergency services and government bureaucracy. There is no etiquette handbook regarding how to do this and I’m trying my best to manage an extremely stressful situation. I’ve done everything possible to be calm and respectful toward you and National Resources Canada, as well as navigating cautiously around my partner’s employment so this intervention doesn’t impact him negatively and make the situation any worse than it is currently.

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But I’m growing concerned that you haven’t kept your word by calling me back and all I’m getting is radio silence when I attempt to get you on the telephone since our original contact. For that reason I’m putting my concerns and plea for assistance in writing to generate a government record, in addition to ensuring that NRCan is fully aware of the details surrounding the disappearance of senior research scientist, Dr. Barry J. Cooke. I’m not looking to become adversarial with the government, so please accept my communiqué as being motivated by genuine love, care, and distress.

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When we spoke on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, around 8pm ET, I reached you on your cellphone. I obtained that number from your official work voicemail greeting that advises everyone to contact your cell during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to working from home. I trust that I was not behaving inappropriately by using that personal contact information.

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During that conversation we spoke for some time, as I explained that Barry is a missing person. I shared some of the details to express my belief that he’s suffering from a mental health event and to convey that his disappearance is a bona fide cause for concern. I further explained that I inquired with you because you’re the only person who knows where his trailer is located, in a nondescript rural area beyond the outskirts of Sault Ste. Marie. I was also aware that Barry had to keep his phone turned on, to be reachable by NRCan throughout the pandemic and dynamic working conditions.

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You responded with several questions that I accept were appropriate, despite making me feel uncomfortable. I gather you were trying to determine if I was interfering in Barry’s employment due to a domestic spat and blowing a personal situation out of proportion, possibly in an act of revenge. I believe I satisfied your doubts enough that you agreed to search for Barry and you asked for a few days to look into his welfare before calling me back.

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During our initial call, you indicated a few things that I will note for the record. You stated that you don’t know the specific location of Barry’s trailer – only a general vicinity. You agreed that you’re supposed to be able to reach Barry while he’s offsite during the pandemic and would attempt to make contact. While still entertaining the possibility this was nothing more than a domestic dispute, you asked if you were able to get in touch with Barry and he refused to speak with me – would I accept his denial. I agreed that I would and stressed the most important thing is locating his whereabouts to ensure he’s okay.

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I was prepared to accept the government’s state of unknowing pertaining to my intentions, because I’m also unsure of Barry’s mental state and his intentions. I can appreciate that any outsider would question the chicken or the egg; whether a romantic rift led to his flight, or greater emotional instability caused Barry to behave erratically and threaten his own well-being. On that topic in particular, you asked if Barry threatened to harm himself and I indicated he did not, but there are more details you’re not aware of yet that point to negative trajectories.

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In the interim I was trying to remain level-headed and avoid jumping to unhelpful conclusions, so I only shared enough information to cause you to search for signs of life. As Barry’s family, I’m obligated to contact anyone who might know where he is before I embarrass him by filing a police report, if in fact it is unfounded. I can’t go to the police and say I think he’s missing, but I haven’t bothered to look or check any of his usual places. The police wouldn’t take me seriously if I didn’t call his workplace. So that’s what I did to work through this methodically, without causing him or me unwarranted shame and complications.

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The last thing I want to do is imperil Barry’s employment, when it might be one of few things still holding him slightly together. It doesn’t matter if the employer is a champion of human and labour rights, because I’m old enough to recognize the stigma surrounding mental illness and emotional crisis will persist, in contrast to any regulations prohibiting this discrimination. Unfortunately it’s human nature to distrust anyone ‘different’ in a society that doesn’t actively educate about these health issues.

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I’m not just a recovering journalist. I used to be a spokesperson for the Ontario Association of Social Workers during government budget and policy consultations. Therefore I tried to keep as much of Barry’s situation private as possible. I told you enough of what you needed to know to provide the assistance he needs, without divulging every last detail. However and due to your lack of response, I’m sincerely worried that NRCan is either circling the wagons or failing to take Barry’s situation seriously enough. Because it’s possible his life may hang in the balance and you’re the only person with any ability to locate Barry, should he be safe and sound, I will now share more about his crisis, albeit reluctantly and with heaps of caution. I am not a doctor and what follows is not grounds to penalize Barry any more than he’s already suffered. This is my personal opinion, supported by facts, that suggest a need for qualified medical intervention and proper support from National Resources Canada.

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Before I get to those details, I wish to indicate that I waited patiently for you to respond with the outcome of your search. You requested “a few days” to look into this and to speak with your boss regarding procedural obligations within NRCan. When I didn’t hear from you after a week, I began calling again. I left messages on your cellphone voicemail; one on Tuesday, July 21, 2020 around 2:45pm, one on Wednesday, July 22, 2020 around 8pm, and one on Thursday, July 23, 2020 around 3:30pm. None of my calls have been returned. I’m still unaware if NRCan considers Barry to be a missing person or if he’s been located. By the time you receive my email it will be two full weeks that NRCan has been aware of a missing person inquiry and failed to respond whatsoever.

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I tiptoe lightly through the next part, from a personal and professional perspective. I’m absolutely intimidated to raise legal considerations with the government, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t gently nudge you to contemplate the ramifications for everyone involved.

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On a personal level and as I explained, I’ve only heard good things about you, Taylor. You’ve been as much a friend to Barry as his boss and I’m keenly aware that I owe my blended family to everything you did to help him resettle in Ontario. Barry has said many times that your adherence to ethics mirrors mine, as a matter of default and preoccupation. He admires your courage to tackle bureaucratic dysfunction and that you don’t shrink from hot topics. In better times, he’s been anxious to introduce us because he thinks we’d get along famously and the banter would be exciting. You can’t imagine how sorry I am to squander the promise of that positive introduction.

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Despite anything I might say in this letter, I regret causing damage to your friendship with Barry or making myself look like a threat of any kind. That is not my intention and I’m hopeful we can be friendly on the other side of this chaos. Please understand that my first obligation is to my fiancé and his immediate welfare though. None of what I say is an attack on you or the government. It’s just a complex situation we’re now required to sort through together.

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On a professional level (and this is where it gets prickly), I believe I’m afforded some rights as Barry’s emergency contact and dependent within the records of NRCan. A couple of years ago, he said he made this change to his file as well as adding me to his benefits package. If I’m wrong or he changed the record to remove me recently, you will need to correct my understanding. I only have Barry’s word to go by and this is what he told me when we got engaged.

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I would think that any workplace needs to take a missing persons report seriously, regardless of who made it. I would think that any reasonable person should expect the workplace to be cooperative with a missing persons case as well. I’m at a loss to understand why NRCan believes it can take two weeks or more to confirm if their staff is alive. As the emergency contact for Barry, I’m not clear that it’s legal for NRCan to ignore me. This is cruel and unusual punishment, especially given the many considerations I’ve already shared with you and the fact that Barry may be in danger this whole time.

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NRCan’s reluctance to respond is directly interfering with my ability to involve the police and obstruction is not a word that anyone should accept when it comes to the plight of searching for a missing person in apparent emotional distress. During our conversation and every voice message I’ve left since, I mention the need to initiate a police search if NRCan isn’t able to locate Barry either.

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If you know that Barry is okay and he just doesn’t wish to speak with anyone, you need to let me know. Otherwise NRCan would be setting me up to make a false police report for a missing person, knowingly so. False reports waste a lot of taxpayer dollars and I could be criminally charged with mischief for relaying information that isn’t true. My only defence would be claiming the government’s negligence and that’s a brutal scenario to create for NRCan families. Plus the government would be impugning my reputation within the community and as a professional journalist, if the plan is to let me make the report while knowing NRCan would debunk it when the police came calling to locate Barry.

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Whether anyone likes it or not, the government has a duty to respond to me, one way or another, to confirm the status of an employee. The public service is not the secret service and it doesn’t get to hide staff from being discovered alive. It has a fiduciary duty to Barry as well, to not deliberately ignore his welfare and make his family think he might be dead, if you know he’s alive and well. Moreover, the government has a fiduciary duty to ensure the police know if a staff member has gone missing. Waiting weeks to do that, when the family has notified NRCan of the issue, would make the government liable for any harm that comes to him.

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Nobody needs a law degree to understand that concept and the last place I want to be is in court with the government while I’m grieving the loss of my partner, should he meet an untimely end. This isn’t a threat. It’s just the cold, hard reality for both of us. I’m as obligated to report him missing as you are, if neither of us can locate Barry anywhere. If NRCan is taking its time to get around to an investigation because they question my credibility, it would be detrimental to the sitting government’s reputation for its handling of mental health emergencies as well.

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Please let me be emphatically clear: This is not what I want. What I want is for Barry to be okay and able to receive help. I want for him to be found and I want to work with the government to locate him. I want to be friends and not the butt of an inappropriate joke that fails to value mental health and the lives of staff. Even if Barry is okay, don’t you think he’s dealing with serious issues if his family is worried he may be lost and distraught or dead?

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Now that the prickly part is out of the way, we can begin to address the things you may not know and why I’m genuinely worried about Barry’s welfare.

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Via your questions during our telephone conversation, I can tell that you’re approaching me like a casual girlfriend who has no rights (unlike a wife) and that you’re protecting Barry’s right to walk away from me if he decided to end the relationship. You asked about ownership of the car, shared bank accounts, and things of this nature. You asked if he left any belongings at my home, I guess to ascertain if he broke up with me and had any intention of coming back.

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Regardless of our family management plans and who owns what or pays for what, Barry and I are in a common-law relationship and have been for a number of years. We are engaged and did intend to be legally married, but whether we tie the knot is almost neither here nor there. Common-law partners have nearly the same rights and responsibilities as married couples in the Province of Ontario, so he doesn’t get to exit the relationship and escape financial obligations. This is a common misconception among people who’ve never had to navigate the family court system. (Oddly enough, the reason we’re not married yet is because of NRCan – more on this soon).

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My relationship with Barry began on October 19, 2015. I’m the reason he left Alberta and relocated to Ontario. I’m the reason he took your old job as the Ontario Entomologist in the year that it took to conclude his life in Edmonton and begin anew here. We’ve been together for nearly five years and he’s been using my address as his home for more than four years. He became my son’s step-dad and they’ve shared car insurance policies all that time as well. Much of Barry’s mail arrives at my home, including correspondence with his union over the continuing grievance at NRCan. In no way, shape, or form are we casually dating.

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Barry’s emotional distress is caused by a few issues, but all of them relate to me and NRCan. He thought because precedents were set for other employees to work on deployment that he would be able to request a similar arrangement through the University of Toronto, in partnership with NRCan. He spent a lot of time lining that up and making the inroads necessary to create a space for him at the school. This was important to Barry because I own my home in Wasaga Beach, I’m physically disabled, and I can’t relocate to Sault Ste. Marie.

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Needless to say, he was disappointed when NRCan denied his request to be treated equally and granted the same distance leeway as fellow staff. The commute from Sault Ste. Marie to Wasaga Beach is eight hours, whereas the commute from Toronto is two hours. One is feasible and the other isn’t. He originally planned to spend half the year living with me (while working in Toronto) and half the year spending two weekends per month at home (while working in the Soo).

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When this didn’t pan out, he was disillusioned at the discrepancy between staff. My disabilities require daily support and he knew this was letting me down in such a severe way that it could threaten the viability of our relationship. Although he earns a healthy income, it’s still not enough to cover a nurse/PSW and maintenance people on a regular basis. But I stood by Barry because I love him and so did my son. My boy agreed to remain at home (hijacking his plans to leave for college), so he could assist me until Barry was able to amend his working/living arrangements in a way that I could manage.

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The winters became hard, to do the eight hour commute on weekends. Sometimes it was just too dangerous to drive in white-out conditions that notoriously plague that route. He had a few accidents that were mostly small, but his life flashed before his eyes when he narrowly missed a rockface. That’s why Barry began working tons of overtime when he was in Sault Ste. Marie, so he could bank it and come home for a week or two at a time. You were very kind in making at least that much possible (thank you).

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None of this was the life we imagined when we began our journey together, but we stuck together as families do to overcome the challenges. Barry kept trying to finagle arrangements that would get him closer to home, or home for longer stretches. In return I vowed to stay with him and I tried to pitch the worst-case scenario as something we could handle. His retirement wasn’t that far away in the grand scheme of things, for soulmates to be united. If we all pitched in, including my son, there was no tribulation that could keep us apart.

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But then Barry was hit with problems at NRCan that persist to this day and they’re entirely responsible for his current compounded crisis.

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The Edmonton lab is such a toxic workplace that it’s known by everyone in forestry across the country (my words as an experienced political journalist, not Barry’s). You had to fight for his transfer to Ontario because they sought to block his freedom of movement. We’re eternally grateful you intervened and that the Great Lakes Forestry Centre is a positive, productive environment. But that wasn’t the only problem they caused for him.

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When Barry took a year’s leave to assume your old job with the Province of Ontario (to facilitate his migration), the Edmonton lab (vindictively or negligently) withheld crucial information that cost us many thousands of dollars. As payroll resumed with NRCan upon transfer to GLFC and conclusion of his leave, he was unexpectedly penalized for a year’s worth of the employer’s contribution to the health benefit. No one told him this would happen. There were steps he could have taken to prevent that penalty but Edmonton refused to tell him.

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We were then in a position of needing to cover two residences (my home and an apartment for Barry in the Soo because he was blocked from deployment). We had to budget for those considerable extra costs, while also paying the employer’s health tax that was improperly deducted from each of his paycheques at hundreds of dollars every month. That health contribution amounted to the equivalent of a third residence that we were forced to pay for an entire year.

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But we did it, with help from his coworker. Will (Wil, William?) rented Barry a cheap room for $400 per month, with storage space for his belongings from the previous marriage. That worked for a while; though the property was a university party house, appliances were regularly broken, and Barry couldn’t get much sleep or privacy. Will is also a funny character (my words) and he took offence whenever Barry needed to request something (like a working stove or fellow tenants to stay out of his room). He was basically told to like it or lump it and not to complain about the kids’ destruction of property. Then Will tried to illegally raise Barry’s rent because he didn’t mesh well with a party crowd that was more than half his age.

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We didn’t want to create waves at work by taking issue with Will’s behaviour. What we’re doing is already challenging enough and it didn’t need to be complicated by fruitless arguments with a coworker. So Barry found another place to live across the street from the forestry centre. He tried to negotiate paying for Will’s storage space because there was no space in the new location. But again, Will was a funny character and he tried to charge Barry the same amount of rent, just to store his things in a garage that no one was using.

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It was beginning to feel like everyone at NRCan thought he was made of money for the taking. That hurt Barry, though he never told anyone at GLFC. I don’t even think he told you, because you’ve been an amazing friend and he didn’t want to be the source of trouble for anyone. This was Barry’s clean slate, free of the toxic meddling and hijinks in Edmonton, working with a team he truly respects, and enjoying the reward of collaborating with inspired people.

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Don’t mix business with pleasure, they say, as he tried his best to swallow everything that was morphing from a molehill into an actual mountain that Barry wouldn’t be able to climb. It’s unfortunate he only knows coworkers in the Soo and he tried to tread softly on that circumstance. Relocating to another province is challenging under the best conditions and the cards he was dealt upon arrival were quite daunting.

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Barry’s financial situation was further exacerbated by Brookfield and the government’s penchant for outsourcing important functions (again, my words). His moving expenses were supposed to be covered, but the company’s inner bureaucracy sorely delayed the process and it was several months before he was reimbursed. We had to shoulder that cost, once more in the thousands of dollars, despite his paycheque being improperly shorted for a year straight. During that time I sent care packages of food, so we knew that he could eat while away from home. For a while he was living on nothing but oatmeal and this upset me when I found out.

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(The longer I write, the more colloquial I may express myself and I’m trying desperately to keep this professional. If you could permit me one lapse, I just need to utter “what the heck” to the Government of Canada. His income is on the sunshine list that everyone in media gripes about, but the gauntlet of errors and lollygagging with corrections is costing more than public servants can earn anymore. This is patently insane and it’s only getting worse, enough to compromise the mental health of government staff. I’ve worked for the Liberals so my frustration isn’t partisan motivated. I want this administration to succeed. I just don’t understand how things could be so dysfunctional that employees can’t afford to eat and no one will bother to check if they’re still alive when a distress call arises. I don’t think I’d be human if this didn’t break my heart and cause concern in the utmost.)

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Continuing, the financial stresses from NRCan weren’t nearly done compounding. After Barry completed the year’s worth of improper deductions to cover the employer’s health tax, those nasty Phoenix payroll issues ensued to replace one problem with another. With all due respect, this was worse than a 1-2 punch. Every time Barry’s paycheque was set to be properly restored, something else came along to skim significant chunks of his income on behalf of a wayward treasury department.

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That grievance has been dragging on for about two years. That in itself is unacceptable (more on this topic soon).

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I expect you’re aware of most information I just shared, but perhaps the government hasn’t considered these issues from the family’s functional perspective and the damage NRCan is causing beyond its office walls. Told in a story format, it paints a stunning picture. But I want you to see in 3-D so I will now explain some details you surely didn’t know.

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When the Phoenix errors began, Barry wasn’t expecting it. He didn’t experience these miscellaneous hiccups during implementation of the new system like others in the public service. Special care was to be taken as the employer health tax was eventually removed from his deductions as well (with assistance from the union). His original salary was restored and he had no cause to suspect they would incorrectly change his remuneration category to a lower level than he always earned. He still doesn’t have an answer regarding how or why that happened (to the best of my understanding, as per Barry’s explanation).

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Like anyone, Barry’s income is direct-deposited and most of his bills have an automated withdrawal. You can’t get things like car insurance without automatic payments and items such as lines of credit are automatically deducted as well. So one October night he was driving back to the Soo and he was stopped by the police. It was then he learned that his insurance bounced and he was charged for driving without coverage. That’s how he discovered the brand new payroll discrepancy.

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Barry didn’t know what to do and he couldn’t afford a lawyer. I didn’t find out for nearly a year because he was afraid to tell me. By this point his income woes were affecting his self esteem and he was afraid I might decline his marriage proposal if I learned he got in trouble with the police. I would have fought it and represented him in court if I knew, but I’m also forced to appreciate how emasculated he must have felt. He was relying on a disabled woman to feed him veritable rations, as he laboured through the madness at work to earn my love and respect. At some point it doesn’t matter how often you tell someone they’re loved when they’ve lost respect for themself. It still hurts me to know that Barry was suffering that much in silence.

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In any event, he pleaded guilty because that was the only way to get an extended agreement to pay the mandatory minimum $5,000 fine. At least that’s what the Crown Attorney told him and he was never advised of the additional consequences that would come to bear in the insurance system. He couldn’t seek that advice because NRCan had been ravaging his paycheque for two years in one form or another, and people on the sunshine list don’t qualify for Legal Aid (nor should they need to).

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Barry tried to cover up the Phoenix errors and repercussions so I wouldn’t get cold feet and leave him for being unreliable/inadequate. I never put those thoughts in his head and they were purely driven by his own fear and stress, related to the never-ending payroll nightmares. I finally got this out of him when we did a bit of counselling with one of my dear friends.

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I didn’t complain how hard it was to get by without him at home, but you know Barry has a big heart and it pained him to leave me fending for myself, on top of all else. My son was trying to hold down a job during this time away from his education and he had to look after all of Barry’s responsibilities. Shoveling the driveway. Taking me to surgeries and medical appointments. Taking out the garbage. Doing groceries and carrying them. Cooking much of the time. And falling behind his peers with no social life, while trying to be a young man who was supposed to begin his own adventure. Barry has/had a wonderful relationship with my son, but this weighs/weighed on him too.

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Meanwhile, Barry was put in a position of robbing Peter to pay Paul. By the time five grand arrived from Brookfield to reimburse his moving costs, it had already come from his personal credit to cover the fees upfront. Any money coming in was then needed to subsidize the recurring Phoenix shortfalls.

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By the time Barry incurred the $5,000 insurance fine, his credit was destroyed. His Visa was cancelled and he moved mountains to pay it back, but they wouldn’t issue a new card. His line of credit went to collections because he could only pay one or the other – and that’s not until massive interest fees were added at the worst possible rate imaginable. In fact, the tally keeps increasing every month that NRCan neglects to resolve his grievance. Barry is paying perpetual interest on the government’s debt that he’s still being forced to carry, as if he’s as rich as the treasury itself and able to shoulder sovereign expenses. Perhaps someone can tell me why the Treasury Board is treating public servants like the government’s personal bank and lender. This sincerely has to stop before they end up killing someone. It’s not just a Phoenix pay problem. It’s a culture and systemic problem involving everything to do with employee benefits, reimbursements, and salaries.

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In my humble estimation, the government is responsible for those interest charges and default penalities, as well as ruining Barry’s driving record and long term financial reputation. The amount he’s grieving (that keeps getting delayed) isn’t half of what it should be. But Barry respects you so much and he’s so grateful to be at GLFC that he’s also afraid to upset the apple cart in Sault Ste. Marie by fighting for what he’s truly owed. He doesn’t want to fight and has little of that spark left in him after all he’s been through. He doesn’t want GLFC to become a toxic workplace, even though the payroll dysfunction isn’t his fault. You might think that Barry is a problem right now, but you have no idea how much he’s taking on the chin to avoid that negative label.

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In the background, natural life kept ticking along despite anything we were working to overcome already. Gravity, time, and physics could care less if we humans are stuck on a few speedbumps. And so it came to pass that our roof began leaking. Fate was determined to make it an emergency by leaking specifically on electrical wires, so we couldn’t delay the repair with buckets until the NRCan grievance was resolved. Under normal circumstances Barry should have been able to qualify for a sweet rate, but due to the implosion of his credit rating, he ended up paying slightly more than 30 percent interest (per month, not per annum).

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You hear about “predatory lenders” in the news, but let me tell you it can take your breath away if you’re forced to gain the experience firsthand. Thirty percent interest is an injury that’s hard to qualify, for all its implications. We banded together and lived clever, to cut all expenses where possible. For a few months we didn’t see Barry because we couldn’t afford the travel. He couldn’t come when I had major surgery either. That one put me out of commission for six full months to recover, and it’s hard to qualify the effect of doing it mostly without your support person and only text messages in lieu of them.

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If that wasn’t enough to keep any good man down, then wait till you hear what happened with his transportation once we were able to budget a trip home. Barry is on the path of Lemony Snickets, because as you know he subsequently rolled his truck in a freak snow accident on the highway. It was a write-off and not his fault, but it certainly didn’t help after a conviction for no insurance.

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This time Barry robbed Paul to pay Mary and when the settlement for his truck arrived he used it to pay off the 30 percent loan for the roof, so he could substitute that debt with a car loan that his mother co-signed at 12 percent instead. It was a crafty way to reduce the household monthly payments, but he wouldn’t have needed a loan for either necessity had the government resolved his grievance and repayed him. He would have qualified for prime interest rates had his salary not been damaged for continuous years, from multiple angles as well.

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On the financial front, Barry was served another dose of humility when he had to beg the union for help to cover the $5,000 insurance fine. Despite the complete dressing down from the onslaught of emasculating consequences, he soldiered on and kept doing whatever needed to be done to get our family through this in one piece.

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When the insurance conviction finally registered in the system, Barry was in for another whopping suprise. His rate increased to $450 per month for a basic 4-cylinder compact, that also cost $400 per month to repay in his mother’s name. Barry couldn’t take my car because it’s a Mustang convertible. He can’t afford insurance to drive a sports car, whereas I only pay $100 with a perfect driving record. That’s also what Barry used to pay, but his coverage quadrupled as a direct result of the Phoenix pay issue. It’s been penalty, on top of penalty, on top of penalty, to an extent that he may now be suffocating.

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Pouring salt in an open wound, Barry is unable to claim an income tax return because NRCan produced a sensationally inaccurate T-4 slip. He can’t get it corrected during the pandemic and it may be some time before anyone attends to the administrative backlog. That could take another year or more and in the meantime he’s deprived of collecting even the nickels and dimes that are owed to him. This may yet deprive him of benefits that are distributed through the Canada Revenue Agency because they’re auditing him for the irregularity as well, in a dash of irony that isn’t lost on him.

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I honestly wonder if you can say that you wouldn’t have hit your breaking point. Don’t forget our wedding has been delayed for two years due to these very reasons, and my health isn’t improving with age. I’m now 75 percent blind and I can’t read or write emails without assistance for the time being. My eyesight deteriorated over the past year and I really need Barry to take me to Toronto for the surgery. That procedure can’t be done locally, unfortunately.

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I’m a bit of a Humpty Dumpty but I know Barry loves/loved me and he’s not a hateful enough person to leave me blind, starving, without transportation, and virtually imprisoned in a remote area – unless there was something desperately wrong. We are genuinely concerned for his welfare and this recent disappearance isn’t logically explainable. In case you’re wondering my son is worried too, enough to assist me with typing this letter on his humble COVID birthday. We didn’t want to spend his birthday making a missing persons report and it saddens me that you haven’t responded in two weeks since I asked for your help. We like to laugh and make the best of most situations, but please concur that you now understand my comment about cruel and unusual punishment. I know it’s not deliberate but it’s still impeccably treacherous, as a result of bureaucratic mayhem within National Resources Canada and staff morale that is apparently nonexistent.

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If I haven’t touched your heart yet, then there’s the matter of Barry’s 11-year-old son. He lives with his mom in Edmonton and comes to stay for two weeks in the summer. Barry can’t afford to see his son now and he won’t be able to until something gives. My limited credit was also maxed to help us coast through these financially choppy waters and there’s nothing left to cover 2020 or visits in the future. The payroll issues affected me too, because I had to pick up the slack whenever Barry couldn’t afford phone bills or groceries. Blind people can’t get credit increases to cover living expenses based on their partner’s unresolved Phoenix grievance and it’s just not possible for me to subsidize the Government of Canada any longer.

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We have never gone on vacation. We don’t eat gourmet food. We rarely dine out and have never been to the movies. Barry hasn’t played a round of golf since he relocated to Ontario. We don’t wear designer clothes either. We are just a family that loves each other, trying to make it under these unforeseen harsh conditions. Barry loves his son dearly and it’s killing him not to visit.

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With this background I will now re-explain the circumstances by which Barry became a missing person since Monday, June 29, 2020. I’ve done a little more sleuthing since we last spoke and the new details are more cause for concern that I hope you will begin to take seriously.

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We had a lovely time over the Christmas holiday and I thought everything was relatively great. I didn’t yet know about the T-4 issue, the $450 increase to insurance, or the $400 per month interest on Barry’s line of credit that defaulted to collections. A meeting was pending to resolve his claim for pay issues and my fiancé was jovial, happy to be home with us. One of the presents he gave us was a life insurance policy from the workplace union. It was a bit odd for a Christmas present, but he wanted us to know that we’d always be cared for and it didn’t faze me to be suspicious of it. I thought it was Barry’s analytical way of showing his love.

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But something must have happened at the very end of December because Barry’s mood changed drastically. I don’t know what it could have been and only have possibilities from subsequent information that he eventually shared with me. He became inexplicably miserable over the next few days and by January 4, 2020, Barry lost his temper and began screaming in my face over his disappointment in a TV movie that I adored. It was a true story about poor kids from the ghetto who overcame their struggles to graduate and lead productive lives (title: Freedom Writers).

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I couldn’t fathom what made him angry. We weren’t fighting and I was excited to share one of my favourite films with him. Barry is all about social justice and this should have been a feel-good flick. Instead he was screaming so hard that he was spitting in my face. This isn’t Barry’s regular demeanour and he stormed out swiftly, leaving the presents we gave him behind. Our pets were terrified and didn’t know what to make of it either.

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After leaving and heading back to the Soo, Barry deleted his social media account. He turned off his phone so no one could reach him. He blocked text messages and after a few weeks, he shot me a brief missive that instructed me to see a counsellor so I “could bitch about everything wrong with him to someone else so he doesn’t have to listen to it”. Except I wasn’t communicating with Barry to warrant this diatribe, because he severed all the ways to reach him.

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I was worried then and didn’t understand what was happening, but grocery money was still deposited in the bank account I use, as per usual with the pay schedule. I figured that I knew he was in the Soo, I knew he was going to work, and I would give him the space he needed to work up the gumption to tell me whatever was wrong.

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Eventually Barry reactivated his social media account and began interacting with everyone regarding COVID. He put money in the bank for my birthday and renewed the vehicle stickers for each of us. He resumed communication with me but it was all pandemic related, avoiding personal discussion. In late April or early May he asked to come home, if I would accept him. We hadn’t broken up during the period away and my head was spinning with wonder, but I agreed to receive him. He wanted a rule that we wouldn’t speak about his explosion and running away, until the pandemic lifted and he could do it with the assistance of a counsellor. I agreed to that too, so he would come home and be safe.

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Upon arrival everything went well on the surface. Barry resumed his chores and planting the garden, followed by family time every evening. He behaved like nothing serious had happened and he hoped I would continue wearing my engagement ring. When I confirmed that I would and reiterated my love, he began to dribble out bits and pieces regarding the struggles that were causing his erratic behaviour.

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Barry confided that he was homeless in the Soo for the past six months. I learned he got kicked out of the room he was renting across the street from work. I learned he needed to return because the landlady said his trailer had be removed from her property, that he couldn’t abandon it there any longer. The neighbours were complaining and Barry was upset that she wouldn’t just give him more leeway. They got along well before this and I don’t know what caused a negative change in their relationship, if he was having trouble paying the meagre rent or if this was purely a dispute about the trailer.

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Barry informed me that you wouldn’t let him store his trailer in your personal driveway, but that you helped him find a spot somewhere deep in the bush where hopefully no one would find it. I gather someone at NRCan must have helped him move the trailer, because it’s not free-standing, doesn’t have wheels, and requires a truck to sit atop the bed like a cab. Since Barry’s own truck was written off in an accident, he could no longer transport the mobile shelter by himself. I’m further aware that GLFC denied his request to keep these sleeping quarters on the government’s parking lot property.

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Please let me confirm that I fully understand why NRCan would decline such an awkward request, I appreciate why you would balk at having your staff take up residence in your own driveway as well. But you knew that Barry was technically homeless for all this time, wheras I didn’t. You knew he was sent to be a squatter in some stranger’s back woods without seeking permission. You knew that every day he did that he was at risk of being discovered and seeing his trailer confiscated by the landowner, with the possibility of criminal charges for trespassing.

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Although men often have difficulty expressing their emotions, or doing so constructively, you had to know this vagrancy situation was causing Barry insurmountable anxiety. You must have acknowledged his unstable psychological state and fretted about what to do, because Barry finally confessed that you also kicked him out of the GLFC lab and told him he couldn’t live at work. I gather he was sleeping there and his office appeared like he had moved in.

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I am not your enemy, Taylor. My goal is not to criticize you, or to place Barry’s career in jeopardy. You’ve been his lifeline to get through the many payroll issues and by no means are Edmonton, Brookfield, or Phoenix your fault. I see that you’ve done everything you can to support Barry gently through this and your friendship means the world to him. I respect your friendship too. The reason I bring this up is because I’m asking you to acknowledge that you knew Barry was in crisis before I reached out to you, and that you know my concerns are entirely justified now.

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I’m aware that you’re a hunter/angler and maybe you downplayed how squatting in the bush would affect Barry because it’s something you do regularly. But my fiancé isn’t a salt-of-the-earth type of man and he’s never tried to live in the wild during the winter season. Barry is a driven academic from the ivory tower, with an overactive mind that benefits NRCan whenever complex analyses and solutions are required. He was reduced to tears when he told me that he woke up every day with ice in his beard and that he lived on nothing but rice for those six months, whenever he couldn’t be home with me.

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To be clear that I’m not attacking you personally, please consider how I felt when I learned the truth of his daily reality in the Soo. All that time he went without so that me and my son would have groceries and a warm bed. He was embarrassed to admit his financial shortcomings and felt like a “loser”, afraid that he didn’t deserve my love, or anyone’s love for that matter. While I’m not a doctor, I can assure you that I never put that thought in his head and it’s indicative of a serious depression.

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I learned a lot in May and June when Barry came home during the pandemic. I’m almost positive that he was expecting me to get angry, but as I remained calm he confessed more and more. Some of these things I will still keep private, but you need to know that he also shutout his immediate family (son, mom, brother, and sister). He kept his phone turned off so no one could reach him. His email box is full and his work voicemail remains full, so no one can even leave messages regarding his whereabouts. Barry isn’t just hiding from me. He’s hiding from everyone in the world, except for possibly you.

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There is one more work related situation that deserves explanation, to illustrate the pressure he’s under and the widespread consequences of these payroll issues. I couldn’t know for sure, but I think this was the straw that broke the camel’s back due to the timing and way it unfolded.

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I never did know what happened to Barry’s belongings from Edmonton. He never spoke about them after the dispute with Will and I assumed he was bringing them home once he went through everything and we created space in the recroom. Life just happens and some of the details fall by the wayside, but they were front and centre for Barry in a way that might have contributed to his undoing.

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I apologize that I forget the woman’s name, but I’m told that Barry ended up storing his things at a different coworker’s barn. Apparently she’s been on leave since the loss of her husband and may not return to NRCan due to immense grief and planning the rest of her life as a widow. (Sorry if I’m repeating some part of this, but there’s a key detail I definitely haven’t mentioned and it is paramount to supporting his mental health.)

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According to Barry, he was using this woman’s horse barn and she needed it back by this spring (2020) for the animals. He was expected to begin going through his things by last autumn (2019) and finish moving them out (to my house) before this summer. I gather he broke the agreement and never attended at any point, nor would he respond to her calls and emails throughout that period. He told me about this two days before the unprovoked meltdown that resulted in his missing person status on June 29, 2020.

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Little could anyone appreciate that he no longer had a truck to move his things, that he was homeless in the Soo, or that he had no money to devise a solution. All we knew is that Barry was unreachable (me, his son, mother, coworkers, creditors, etc). On Father’s Day I asked him to turn his phone on so his boy could reach him and maybe that’s when Barry received the message from this coworker, that she donated his things to charity because he didn’t respond and abandoned them.

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Barry admitted that he knew it was his fault for ignoring her messages. He said it hurt, but he was trying to put on a brave face and accept this as a clean slate with one less worry to resolve. But he was still resentful that she threw everything out and didn’t do more to help him, by moving his things to the field and putting a tarp over them. I didn’t say anything as he explained this, but I will comment now that he was left so desperate, he couldn’t see anything wrong with his expectation.

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Barry further confessed he made a mistake that might have escalated that situation. I’m told he telephoned the coworker and left a voice message before he finished reading her texts, that adamantly warned him not to make contact. She wanted to be left alone to grieve with her horses and I remain unaware if she took any action to halt his attempt at communication.

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I knew there was nothing he could do and personal belongings are considered legally abandoned after 30 days, but I didn’t say that to Barry. He was fighting back the tears and I sought to understand his pain so I could support him in an emotionally meaningful way. I asked if his loss included all the pictures of his son and items like his PhD dissertation. Unfortunately he shutdown and didn’t want to talk about it. Instead. he walked away to do some chores and find his zen place.

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It was two days later that Barry imploded for a trivial reason and ran away from everyone. When I was taking a shower, I found that someone used all my facial soap and I asked if it was my son or Barry. The only words I said were, “Who used my soap all gone?” and this caused Barry to fly off the handle.

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The two days between these events appeared to be happy, under the circumstances. The garden was blooming brilliantly, we spent good time together, we laughed at stand-up comedy, and the family played music together (both my son and Barry are musicians). But the moment I asked who used my soap, Barry flew into an absolute rage.

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He got in my face, screaming and spitting that it wasn’t him. I asked him to please stop yelling and to back up out of my personal space. That enraged him more and he began lunging at me with his chest puffed out, demanding that I give my engagement ring back to him. I was honestly afraid because he’d never been violent like this before. When he ran away in January there was uncharacteristic screaming, but he was never physically intimidating to me before this moment. He did this in front of my son as well, who was also astonished and standing ready in case he needed to jump in the middle to pull Barry away from me.

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I put the ring in his hand to make this stop and to prevent an escalation to fists flying. I thought we would reconvene the next day after he had a chance to calm down, but when I woke on June 29, 2020, Barry was gone. My ring was gone and so was my car, as well as some of my son’s rare music collection. Barry’s car (that he leases in his mother’s name) was also missing and the backdoor to my house was left open (we have a small family of cats that could have run away).

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I texted Barry in a panic to find out where he was. As he didn’t respond, I warned that it wasn’t okay for him to drive my Mustang because he cancelled his own insurance to drive at all. (This happened while he was home during May/June, after he began to confess his financial problems to me. He decided that he couldn’t afford his own insurance anymore and he intended to ride a bicycle until he was made whole from the Phoenix grievance.)

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In those messages I indicated that it wasn’t okay for him to take my ring either. I had no intention of giving it up and the law clearly validates the woman as the owner. Men don’t get to take their gifts back if they decide to end a relationship, no matter how loudly they exit in anger. I also made it clear that I still love him and I’m worried about his welfare. I advised that if he promised to get a mental health referral from the walk-in clinic that he could come back home and we’d work on this together. Parts of me were sad, stunned, angry, and scared to death at what might happen when Barry isn’t thinking clearly.

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He responded by blocking me as I mentioned his mental health, so my son tried sending texts to check on his welfare too. My son also needed to know if he was removed from the insurance policy and if he could legally drive anymore. We had no clue where Barry’s head was at and we had a family policy together through my broker (each of us had one vehicle). It’s just that I’m the only one who could insure the Mustang because I have a perfect record. Plus I have paperwork that Barry gifted me that car at the beginning of our committed relationship (for Valentine’s Day 2016). We only kept the ownerships the same to avoid the cost of transfer taxes.

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When you and I spoke, I know you were fixated on the fact that Barry’s name is still technically listed on the Mustang ownership, but again and with much respect, this will not save him from getting in trouble in three different scenarios. First, I have proof the car was a gift to me and it’s always been in my possession. Second, Barry cancelled his insurance to drive any vehicle whatsoever and the Mustang is covered under my name only, specifically at my address in Wasaga Beach. Third, although he didn’t actually break up with me, a family court would punish him for absconding with my assets as a common-law couple, should he decide to sever our relationship.

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As a bonus fourth consequence, Barry could be convicted of insurance fraud if he intends to drive the Mustang under my name and address. I love Barry and I want him to be well. I want our relationship to work, in spite of the government’s destruction of our lives. But I also have legal obligations and if the car is removed from my care and control, I’m obligated to report this change to the insurance broker.

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You and Barry may not understand the law, but I do and have no intention of being convicted for fraud. If he borrowed my car, that’s one thing that can be resolved by returning it. But if he plans to break up and keep it, I’m sure as heck not going to let him abuse my name on legal records and wind up in jail beside him. Barry can’t afford to drive a sports car and it’s possible no company would carry him for a high risk vehicle, when he was already convicted for driving without insurance, followed by a rollover write-off.

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Expecting me to do that harkens back to the 1950’s and I have no intention of giving up the equality rights women fought so hard to gain. If Barry was of sound mind right now he would emphatically agree, because he used to be quite vocal about equality rights as an ally to women before Phoenix destroyed everything in his world. I’m disappointed you think he can take my belongings if we weren’t fully married, as well as believing I should be liable for his driving transgressions because we’re a family. He can’t have his cake and eat it too, nor does he need misguided advice that would make any court in Canada irate to hear.

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As I’ve stated many times, my intention is to help Barry – not hurt him. I told you directly that he’s a missing person in emotional distress and he must first be located before I can decide to be angry. He must first be located to determine if he wanted to exit this relationship, or if he’s running away from his life altogether. People don’t usually end engagements over soap running out; but sometimes they become suicidal when they’re homeless, lose contact with their children, lose all their belongings, and can’t feed themselves.

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So far I’m giving Barry the benefit of the doubt that he needs our help and I wish you would too. Not every woman is crazy or little more than casual sex and I’d be grateful if you could show me some respect. No life partner should be met with silence when they’re calling to check on their mate in a life and death situation. You asked if Barry threatened to harm himself and I responded in the negative, but I cautioned his behaviour is so erratic that I couldn’t rule it out. Now you’re in possession of all the factors that are causing me to be uneasy, with emphasis on the surprise life insurance policy he gave to us at Christmas. Do you really think he planned to call off the wedding and take my things on the heels of a gesture like that?

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Now I need to explain the consequences of the position you’ve left me in, by refusing to respond for two weeks. All I needed to know was if you’re able to get in touch with Barry, not what he thinks, what he feels, or what his plans are – just that he’s alive and you know where he is so I don’t have to file a missing persons report with the police.

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No one has seen or heard from Barry since Monday, June 29, 2020. He hasn’t posted on social media since that day either. On that day he emptied the bank account, took my car, took his car, and took some of our valuables. On that day and before he departed, he did a bunch of chores like dishes, putting out the garbage, and watering half an acre’s worth of gardens. The place was tidy when I woke up and found him gone with the back door left open.

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Since that day, two paydays have passed and no money was transfered to the bank account we use to cover our bills and groceries. This has never happened before in nearly five years together. He also promised never to do that to me and my son, regardless of whatever might happen. I know promises don’t count for much, but specifically breaking one of that nature denotes an erratic action. The bank account will also incur penalties for non-sufficient-funds (NSF) in the very near future, because Barry didn’t deposit anything to cover the monthly fees. In that regard, he is also a missing person in the eyes of the bank, exhibiting uncharacteristic behaviour.

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Moreover, Barry has failed to pay the cellphone bill in all this time as well. It matters because the bill was in arrears and he had an agreement to repay it. Since the day Barry disappeared he’s missed three scheduled payments and the company began texting my phone to warn us the account is in default. We have a family plan and all our phones are at risk of being disconnected. (Barry and I split our bills and he was responsible for this one.)

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This creates a few problems and top of the list is that you won’t be able to reach him soon, if he is okay to respond. I have no money and can’t cover the bill because none went in the shared account and we can’t even buy food. (Two weeks is a long time when you can’t buy food, just so you know.)

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Should the phones become disconnected, police can’t use the GPS function to locate Barry as a missing person. We truly have no idea what’s happened to him and the possibilies are endless. Maybe he’s living large at the casino, or leading a dual life with another family. But it seems more likely he could be in the bush without a signal, depressed beyond belief, or crushed under his trailer with no one around to notice. It really could be anything and two to four weeks would be a long time alone to have a serious accident with no one to help. To the best of my understanding the trailer is not insured and it’s sitting on makeshift jacks, so who’s to say one of them couldn’t give out and trap Barry underneath? What if he was robbed and beaten in the night, in the middle of absolutely nowhere? What if he contracted COVID-19 and became too sick while isolating to seek medical care?

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I don’t see how living that way could even be considered safe by NRCan. One of your senior scientists is of no-fixed-address and no one who cares can reach him. I get that he’s been granted plenty of leeway to help him make due, but the real issue is the compound damage done by Phoenix and NRCan’s 2-year delay in making Barry whole. None of this would have happened if not for the consecutive and continuous payroll issues.

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Now the damage is so deep that Barry can’t afford to drive or to see his precious son. He can’t afford for his new family to eat, or to speak with any of his loved ones on the telephone. He won’t live to see his credit rating repaired and that means he can’t really finance anything for possibly the rest of his life. He consulted with someone about claiming bankruptcy and that wouldn’t clear from his credit profile until years after he retired from NRCan.

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Since you haven’t responded to let me know if you’re able to confirm signs of life, it will buy Barry a whole bucket of new trouble that I stressed I was trying to avoid. If I have to report him as missing to the police, I will also have to provide all the information for the Mustang because that’s what I believe he must be driving. If that happens, the police will be able to determine that he’s not insured to use it. If Barry acquires a second conviction for driving without insurance, he will never drive again in his lifetime.

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That could spell the end of our long distance relationship, maybe his job, or both. You really, really, really, shouldn’t force me to involve the police if you know Barry’s whereabouts. I’ve proposed a safer way to find him by contacting you and I would think NRCan should be amenable to helping, instead of humiliating Barry by getting police dispatched to his workplace. If I report him as missing, GLFC is the first place they’ll check for him anyway. So why can’t you respond to me and skip harming him any deeper? This situation calls for deescalation and not pushing him right over the edge.

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Another consequence is the fact that I’d have to share Barry’s story with the public. If my fiancé is missing, I’ll need everyone’s help to find him. Except I’m a journalist with a significant following on social media. Many government ministers follow me, as well as senior bureaucrats, senators, party officials of all stripes, union leaders, the prime minister’s advisors, and colleagues in mainstream media. You have to believe that it won’t go unnoticed if I tell everyone he’s missing.

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I absolutely, unreservedly, wholly, and completely swear, that I am not threatening you or anyone at NRCan. I’m attempting to do reputation management on the department’s behalf by not humiliating all of us and becoming the top national news story. I can’t help who I am and the effect of my professional network. I swear that I’m not bragging or name-dropping, because right now it’s become a liability to finding my missing loved one. I’m perfectly afraid that speaking up about Barry could cause him harm through further embarrassment. I could have never imagined being confronted with such a catch-22, or that I’d be torn over how to search for a missing person and the impact of publicity.

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I’ve asked you to do a wellness check because the stress he’s under is from work and he most likely went to the Soo. When the meeting was cancelled to negotiate his claim for damages and the office swiftly closed due to COVID, it left Barry staring at a bottomless abyss with no relief in sight. This bureaucratic mess is neutering him and it’s not cool to do to your fellow man. I assure you that I know what I’m talking about, because Barry’s crisis is predicated on feeling worthy enough to deserve a family. He feels like he let everyone down including me, his son, and his mother, enough to hide from everyone.

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I know you didn’t do this, Taylor, and it’s caused by a series of unfortunate systemic events. Likewise, I need for you to see Barry with compassion instead of judgment, and me with goodwill as opposed to malice. The pressures he’s facing are extraordinary and they’re beyond his control. The response he’s having to the weight of it is common, as replicated by the spike in crisis calls due to COVID-19, let alone the institutional madness that’s been inflicted on his income. In no way do I wish to diminish Barry’s excellence at his job by exposing this personal wobble. He’s done nothing to merit discipline and it’s a sign of strength to seek support whenever it might be needed. Please continue to stand by him and trust in his abilities, but also help him expedite a fair resolution to this predicament.

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You can think of me however you like, just please respond to indicate whether you’ve been able to locate Barry or not. We got by with help from a friend for the past few weeks, but now there really is no food and my son and I can’t qualify at the foodbank because Barry’s salary far exceeds the limit. I’m a disabled person and I require medicine that I’m about to go without. I don’t want to land in the hospital because the government needed twenty people to approve some type of response. I also don’t wish to be permanently blind and prevented from traveling to obtain the care I need. NRCan families deserve better than this and you know it. Barry deserves to have an equilibrium restored as well.

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While I’m not inclined to believe that Barry would ever harm us on purpose, there remains the possibility of a flipside if his emotional state deteriorated badly enough to constitute a stress induced psychosis. If you know that he’s alright and you’re simply refusing to tell me, this debacle could start to resemble domestic violence with NRCan’s involvement and complicity. In the most heartfelt way, I’m begging you not to let that happen.

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The butterfly effect of Phoenix pay issues is grossly underestimated and forcing me to go public with my story in the effort to locate Barry would whip the country into a frenzy, especially when I would need to ask for donations to help feed, transport, and medicate my family in the interim. Government opposition parties would have a heydey with the public service and I’ve spent my entire adult life advocating for civil servants. It could also pose a risk to the current class action, by giving consideration to expanding the claim for damages incurred by family members. Again, this isn’t a threat and it’s not what I’m seeking to do. I’ve only worked in the media long enough to have a good grasp of how our body politic operates. Once the issue leaves my lips it would take on a life of its own, over which you and I would no longer have control.

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Thank you for your time to read this and any actions you might take to assist. I will have my son check my email but it will likely be infrequent, so please consider calling me back to communicate over the telephone. I can’t express how difficult it is for me to read things anymore. Regardless of how it happens, I just need to hear from you to know if police should initiate a search.

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Yours very truly,

Amy MacPherson

@msamymacpherson

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——————

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I received a response from Taylor about 24-hours later. He informed me that Natural Resources Canada doesn’t consider Barry to be a missing person, nor did he believe my fiancé was under any stress. He claimed that NRCan takes mental health seriously, but asked that I not contact him or the government again, as they don’t consider themselves to be part of the problem.

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The president of Barry’s union hasn’t responded whatsoever and it’s now a month later.

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As things stand, the only person who may know Barry’s whereabouts is withholding that location (of no fixed address, somewhere in the nondescript wilderness). The address that NRCan keeps on file is at least two years out of date and does not reflect his state of homelessness, so I remain concerned the government is in a conflict of interest and has a vested interest in preventing that information from coming to light. Barry’s boss is procedurally tasked with defending the government in his grievance process and accepting the payroll issues caused this harm would amount to admitting liability. This is an incredibly serious problem when it comes to someone’s mental health and safety.

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When my fiancé departed, he left with approximately $30,000 worth of my assets and the only address I can send police or court documents is to his office at NRCan. That’s provided Barry is still alive and he meant to abuse me in this way, but his boss never denied my allegations and let all of them stand as expressed in my letter. By failing to object to my description of the situation, NRCan has passively admitted that they know Barry is homeless, they know he was living out of his office prior to COVID, and they know he’s a squatter in rural Sault Ste. Marie currently.

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It is therefore impossible to leave the government out of this because they’re the only point of contact that remains valid. In a nutshell, I was asked to stop searching for Barry because they claim he’s alive, but that knowledge, based on one man’s word, fails to resolve any of the problems. I still have no food for me and my son, no medicine that I require for a physical disability, and I’m being denied access to life altering medical care that will result in permanent blindness. If Barry is of sound mind, then NRCan has determined they support him in stealing my assets and committing severe domestic abuse. They will even go so far as to abet this behaviour by hiding him from the resulting legal issues.

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I personally disagree with Barry’s boss and I believe he’s under extreme duress. It was two days after he lost all of his belongings that he absconded with mine, in an obvious emotional breakdown. It was two days after he lost his belongings that he blocked everyone (not just me) from contacting him. Since I sent that letter, the bank account has become overdrawn due to monthly fees and it will soon be forwarded to a collection agency for non-use. This will harm his credit rating further and I’ve spent the past four years watching him fight tooth and nail to restore his financial reputation. Even the devil on my shoulder can’t believe that Barry would do this on purpose.

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Furthermore, I am deeply troubled the PIPSC union is abandoning its dues-paying members when their purported services are needed most.  The Harper government made life hell for scientists, but their labour representatives are now disinterested if they’re made to starve as homeless people.  There could be no greater disrespect and Ms. Daviau must be held accountable.

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I still haven’t shared all the details that cause me to worry for Barry’s safety. I will continue to guard some of his secrets fiercely, but something that didn’t make it into my letter is noteworthy and relevant to his missing status. When Barry came home in May 2020 he divulged that he expected me to go searching for him when he left in January. He was disappointed that I showed patience instead of panic and since he left the second time, he upped the ante to force me to panic. This time he’s ensured I cannot eat or work in the future if I don’t do something to find him and make this better.

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I’m not saying this is healthy behaviour or something I can condone, but given my life’s experience, I recognize it as a desperate cry for help. For the majority of our relationship I’ve been cherished as Barry’s ‘princess’ and though I caution against pedestals, it would be a wild turn of events if we suddenly went from that to leaving me for dead. Something is incredibly wrong and that’s the only part I know for sure.  He’s aware that I see a cardiologist and that my blood pressure is crashing all the time.  Leaving me without food or the ability to visit a doctor is incredibly dangerous and that’s something he wouldn’t do, even to his worst enemy.  Anyone who knows Barry also knows this to be true.

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I had promised to love him for better or for worse and the latter is arising now, so I’d be an awful person to turn my back after he cared for me in all the years prior. Obviously I can’t cope with the way I’m being treated today, but the love we shared wasn’t fake and I sincerely believe he’s in crisis.  If I give up searching myself and hand this over to police, he will not emerge unscathed and he risks losing the ability to drive again. If that were to happen it would be a death knell for his ability to exercise visitation with his son in another province.  I just don’t think that fighting fire with fire is appropriate for this situation.  I would like to be happy and healthy again, and for Barry to get whatever help he might need.

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The stakes are so high from so many angles that it’s not possible for me to get this exactly right. I can’t find Barry without offending someone, humiliating both of us, or putting his job in the middle of a resolution and my own reputation at risk. This is why I’m turning to the public for assistance and why I see this effort as the lesser of two evils. My eyesight has deteriorated so much that I can’t dial a phone anymore or read from a white screen. Yellow glasses don’t even help now and it’s getting worse by the week. I have precious little time left to resolve anything for either of us. It also puts my stomach in knots to keep sitting on my hands and watching the clock tick.

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If you could help me find my fiancé I would be eternally grateful. Below I will include pictures of him, as well as my car and engagement ring in case he tried to sell them anywhere. Possible locations include Sault Ste. Marie (the Soo), Wasaga Beach, Oakville, Guelph, and/or Edmonton.

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It’s apparent I need financial help of some sort to deal with this calamity in the immediate, but I don’t have Paypal and I don’t want to exploit Barry’s name across the entire internet by starting a GoFundMe campaign. A few friends had sent e-transfers to get us through the past two months and all I can say is I’ll share my email address in Twitter DM’s if anyone wanted to reach out that way (my byline is at the top of this entry and it’s hyperlinked to that account). My son set up my computer with a number of visual aids and they’re incredibly dysfunctional, but at least they work on social media and anyone can find me there. I really don’t like asking for money and it makes me queasy to be this vulnerable. It’s not that I have too much pride, but rather recognition that everyone is struggling during this godforsaken pandemic. I would never want someone else to go without in their effort to assist my family.

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I’m also unable to afford a lawyer at this time, so if any legal eagles stumble across my story I would be grateful for their advice.

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I will leave you now with my fiancé’s details:

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  • Dr. Barry J. Cooke

  • Age 53

  • Height 5’11”

  • Weight 195lbs

  • Salt and pepper hair

  • Blue eyes

  • Usually keeps a beard but shaved for COVID-19

  • Requires glasses to see

  • Often wears concert t-shirts and/or rock music shirts I made for him

  • Regularly carries an acoustic guitar

  • Likely driving a 2011 Ford Mustang convertible, silver with a black ragtop and scuffs on the front passenger bumper, Ontario plate #CEDA 056

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So everyone knows, I did attempt to message Barry and give him fair warning that I planned to make this public if I didn’t hear from him. He’s had reasonable notice and still failed to make contact (another reason to believe he must be in crisis).

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Please see the pictures and thanks very much for your time to read about our tribulations. In the meantime, we will try our best to keep the faith and light a candle so he can find his way home again.  If nothing else, may my broken heart and humiliation cause you to hug your nearest and dearest.  And please… consider the effects of a double cohort caused by Phoenix and COVID-19 the next time you feel like berating a public servant.  It’s not the high life you might think it is and none of them were qualified for CERB.

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