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Families of Dean Mattinas and Autumn Shaganash appeal for help locating their loved ones

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Families of Dean Mattinas and Autumn Shaganash made their voices heard inside Barrie Police Headquarters and appealed for help finding the missing Indigenous man and woman who are missing.

Indigenous elders and leaders from across the province voiced their concerns for the missing 27-year-olds. Shaganash disappeared last June, while Mattinas was last seen along Highway 11 in Constance Lake First Nation in March.

"Whether it is to the family or to the police, we ask you to come forward," said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum.

"Closure should be these family members being returned home, sitting with their families again, celebrating their birthdays," added Chief Rick Allen of Constance Lake First Nation, who called on the community to step up and assist the families in search of their loved ones.

"We shouldn't be suffering like this. How are we here gathered?" He then addressed the lack of resources and services available to the families.

"Mental health services. Where is the services for these families that are here?"

Dean Mattinas is believed to have been travelling prior to his disappearance. His family believes he was close to home and was hitchhiking.

"I just hope that nothing has happened to him, and may he just come and see me again," said his grandmother, Rita Mattinas.

"I love my granddaughter, and I miss her so much, and I want her to come home," says Autumn's grandmother, Minnie Moore.

Despite efforts by police and loved ones, including hiring a private investigator and her photos appearing on city buses and signs across Barrie in April, Autumn's family says no new leads have come in.

She was last seen by loved ones a year ago, leaving the family's south-end home and crossing Burton Avenue. 

Her phone was last traced back to the Sunnidale Park area, where Autumn was also captured on surveillance cameras following a man on the street while she carried what appeared to be a set of skis over her shoulder.

"Autumn met this guy, and it was a week and a half, and she went missing. And she met this guy at the Native Friendship Centre. So you know we've got to get all Native organizations involved with what's going on and protect our children, our women," said her uncle Clarence Moore, who believes the man in the video knows what happened to his niece. Police, he said, have not charged the man with Autumn's disappearance.

Together, the group called for more funding and support for police services and government resources to expand search efforts and make their families whole again.

"This lack of immediate and thorough response is unacceptable and highlights a systematic issue that needs urgent attention," said Chief Sheri Taylor of the Ginoogaming First Nation.

"The families feel abandoned and neglected by those who are supposed to protect and serve. They have taken it upon themselves to act on leads, often feeling these efforts are only superficially acknowledged by the authorities before being brushed off," added Chief Taylor.

Still, the families remain hopeful for closure and answers.

"She is somewhere out there; someone knows something," said Autumn's older sister, Lili.

"And I hope she comes home one day."

Anyone with information is asked to come forward to Barrie Police, the OPP, or, should they wish to remain anonymous, Crime Stoppers.

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