Nunavut RCMP won’t confirm missing Iqaluit teen was in custody before he vanished

“It has no bearing on his disappearance”

A taxi driver dropped off Ambar Roy, 18, by this apartment building on the Road to Nowhere in Iqaluit on March 13. That is the last confirmed sighting of the University of Waterloo student, who is said to have spent the night of March 12 to March 13 in RCMP custody before wandering out onto the land, although police say that the teenager’s whereabouts that night have nothing to do with his disappearance. (Photo by Jane George)

By Jane George

One month after Ambar Roy went missing in Iqaluit, many questions remain about the circumstances that led up to the 18-year-old’s disappearance.

On the night of March 12 into the 13th, sources close to the teenager assert he was in police custody.

Police had earlier said they didn’t know where the teenager spent that night, before heading out to the Road to Nowhere the next day.

Police now say they “have accounted for his whereabouts” that evening. But, “as it has no bearing on his disappearance, we have not provided any details to media on where Ambar Roy spent the night of the 11th and 12th of March,” the RCMP said April 11 in an email.

Police previously said he spent the night of March 11 at the home of his parents, Bijoya and Amal Roy.

With many inconsistencies in police statements, a coroner’s inquest may be the only way to find out more information about what happened to Ambar during those two troubled days before he went missing.

He’s believed to have have walked outside Iqaluit on the land, where searchers were unable to find him.

Last week, Ambar’s grieving mother, Bijoya, told Nunatsiaq News that she had finally gone out on a snowmobile for the first time in her life, with search members, to see where they had tracked her son, and she said she still couldn’t believe a boy who’s originally from Toronto could have wandered so far.

Here’s what we know: on March 11 her son was caught vaping at the Iqaluit airport; he spent the night of March 11 at home; on March 13 a taxi driver dropped Ambar on the Road to Nowhere, the last place he was seen.

The search in the city and out on the land for Ambar, a student at the University of Waterloo, ended March 27.

At the time, the RCMP said “given the time frame since Ambar has been last seen, it is believed Ambar has succumbed to the elements. Any further search would be considered a recovery versus a rescue mission.”

Searchers had headed out on numerous occasions and tracked, at one point, what police said was a person wearing one shoe who had walked more than 10 kilometres north-north-east of the Road to Nowhere, in deep snow and in frigid conditions.

Nothing has been heard from Ambar since March 13 and no item of his clothing has been located.

Police have offered varying accounts of what took place between the time when Ambar was prevented from boarding a Canadian North jet on March 12 and his last confirmed sighting March 13.

At first, when Ambar was declared missing on March 18, police said Ambar was last seen leaving the Iqaluit International Airport on March 14, at 11 a.m.

Nearly a week later, police offered a new version of events, saying that Ambar was last seen at a bridge under construction on the Road to Nowhere leading out of the city.

Danny Savard, the manager of Caribou Cabs, partially confirms this account. On March 13, around midday, Ambar got out of a taxi at the last building before the Road to Nowhere heads into the hills and towards the bridge in question.

If Ambar had been obviously in distress at time, the taxi driver would have called the dispatcher, he said.

It was not as if the teen was dumped in the “middle of nowhere,” Savard said.

The driver didn’t make a big deal out of the ride, he said.

“If we asked too many questions, you’re all over Facebook for being too nosy,” Savard said.

People of all ages who live there get out at the same place, all the time, he said. As well, it’s not unusual for a passenger to stop for a smoke or vape after leaving a taxi cab.

One version of events of Ambar’s activities from March 11 to March 13, first offered in an online posting from a close friend of the Roy family, has since been confirmed by other reliable sources.

They say Ambar was in police custody from March 12 to March 13: “He was at the Legion on Tuesday, March 12 evening until late, then to The Frob(isher Inn) to ask something. He walked to a shelter and he was in the care of the RCMP until Weds. morning. By noon he was missing,” as a friend of the family said on Facebook.

After multiple, unsuccessful searches, on March 27 police called off the search for Ambar Roy, 18, missing since March 13. (Photo courtesy of the RCMP)

On March 11, he had attempted to spend the night at Iqaluit’s “damp” shelter, for people who may be intoxicated, police said.

Because Roy was under 19, he was not allowed to stay at the shelter, and police previously said he went home. That’s been confirmed by other sources, too.

In the early morning hours of March 13, police said Ambar returned to the damp shelter, but was not allowed in.

It’s unclear whether the shelter, as it is supposed to, contacted the RCMP or social services about Ambar, as the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Family Services has not yet responded to questions sent earlier this week.

Ambar’s mother said that when she last saw him, he showed no signs of being suicidal, and that he had made plans to meet friends back in Waterloo, Ont.

What was the nature of Ambar’s contacts with the RCMP and social services in the hours leading up to his disappearance? We don’t know, because the RCMP and family services didn’t elaborate on that question.

These are the kinds of questions often dealt with by a coroner’s inquest—which anyone may request—to determine the circumstances and events leading up to a death.

A coroner may hold an inquest to produce recommendations designed to prevent similar deaths, or as the Coroners Act puts it, “to inform the public as to dangerous practices or conditions in order to avoid preventable deaths.”

Ambar’s disappearance is not the first to take place in Iqaluit in recent years: in 2014 Ben Palluq went missing and as did Lucassie Etungat in 2016.

Neither has been found, although a piece of clothing later thought to belong to Etungat was located on an island in Koojesse Inlet.

But Ambar is the only missing person to have had contact with the RCMP in the hours before he vanished.

(Some details on dates in this story have been adjusted)

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by pissed off on

    The behaviour of the RCMP is extremely deplorable in this affair.
    Giving contradictory versions of the same events .
    Giving out information only when pressed.
    Imagine the torment of the family.
    Imagine if they are that sloppy when it becomes a legal issue before the Courts. A decent lawyer could easily run circles around the procedures and get anyone acquitted.


  2. Posted by i don’t get it on

    Something about this case does not make sense.
    Why was an 18 year old allowed into the Legion and why didn’t the Legion flag this?
    This young man went to the damp shelter …..what did shelter staff do ensure this young man had a safe place to go to since he wasn’t allowed to come in and why do you need to be 19 to go to a shelter????? Who determines what age someone can access a safe place???? Why didn’t anyone get in touch with the parents to figure out why this 18 year old from the South is coming to a damp shelter? Why didn’t the shelter staff reach out to Family Services or Mental Health to see what support could have been provided to this young man? You should not just turn someone away from a shelter without putting a safe plan in place. Was he turned away from the shelter? If yes, why and what was the safety plan for this man for the night?
    If the young man was in RCMP Custody? Was he held in cells? Who did the RCMP release him to? Did they just release him without even confirming a safe plan for him ? Why did the RCMP not reach out to see what support Social/Family Services could have provided to this man? Yes he is 18 but it was clear that was he was vulnerable and in need of help! How often do you see an 18 year old from the South in this situation in Iqaluit -it is unusual so why didn’t anyone pick up on this? There were so many flags that this man needed help and no one cared enough to get him the help which is sad and now he is missing. My heart goes out to the family. May everyone find peace because this case is SUPER TRAGIC and a perfect example of when systems fail to protect the vulnerable. This man was looking for help and did not get it!

    • Posted by Facts on

      The damp shelter’s mandate is to provide a safe space for those who are 19+. They cannot accept those who are under the age of 19, as it is not considered safe or appropriate to shelter children with adults who may be highly intoxicated. It is a matter for the Department of Family Services to consider if there are appropriate safe places in this town for children, such as youth homes. In this situation, had he gone to a youth home, he may have been denied access as he was intoxicated, and it may not have been safe for the other youth.

      The damp shelter did follow procedure. At the first visit, Ambar’s family was informed and picked him up and took him home. At the second visit, the RCMP picked him up. He spent the night in an RCMP holding cell.

      • Posted by Sara on

        When does a person typically get released after being in a holding cell for? Public intoxication? Underage drinking? I know the police usually doesn’t have time to hold everyone’s hand after being in the “drunk tank” and then released, with that said, was he sober when he left? If so, were his parents notified? Was there a drop off/pick up point? If not, why would he be released? I’m missing something here.

  3. Posted by ?? on

    It is ridiculous that the police can’t release a consistent, solid sequence of events. The guy was never at the airport on the 13th like they originally said. If he was, there would have been video. Why did they say he was for days and days? They would have known he was at the Legion on the 12th. Why wasn’t that information released? Was he in custody that night? Say so. Was he dropped at the apartments at Road to Nowhere, or was he dropped at the bridge? Those are two very different locations. Why can’t they release a consistent story? I don’t think anything sinister happened, but these inconsistencies make it seem like it did, and all it does it make the public (and probably the Roy family!) lose confidence in the police. They have a hard enough job as it is. Why are they making it harder for themselves?

  4. Posted by Insider on

    My deepest sympathy to the family , my heart goes out when I see someone last there loved ones. This is definitely a tragic presumed dead/ disappearance . There are many unanswered questions in this case. The family need to get strong and demand answers from the police and the coroner service for an inquest.
    Why would police hold back the information from the family and the public when Roy spent the night in drunk tank? And act like they have done everything possible to search for him, when the cab company clearly stated that they dropped him near the bridge? Why not start from there his search, may be we could have found some answers? Why would police say that he was last seen at the airport and what are they trying to hide? With my experience police always needs to inform the family about a minor being held in cells and or during the time of release. Why not in this case? Poor guy he must have felt ashamed to go back to home after spending a night in cells to face the parents . So sad we as government of Nunavut failed this well educated kid who lost his way. Is this is the right time for child and youth representative to advocate for his death. I would demand a inquest to inform the circumstances surrounding the death. We have many missing files in Nunavut and never get resolved, does any of the police think how hard it is on the family not knowing what happened. Hope police was truthful to the parents and told them that he was in cells. Oh yeah justice department wanted to protect the police, so no mess or fuss so many incompetent people sitting on top jobs ripping people’s life is there business, shame on you justice.

  5. Posted by sadandterrible on

    18 years old is not that far from 19 so the damp shelter could have made an exception.
    What “risk” was he going to face sleeping in the damp shelter for the night? He is not a child and the shelter is supervised and is specifically for people who are intoxicated and need a safe place to stay.
    Where do intoxicated youth go when they need help? Did anyone from Family Services or Mental Health offer to meet with this young man to discuss his concerns? What support services were offered to him by the RCMP and the damp shelter? Was he given information about crisis lines he could call? I just feel like it was evident this man made attempts to get help and the help did not reach him. It also highlights the lack of services for youth in this Territory. Where do youth go when they need help? Where do they sleep when they have nowhere to go to? Who do they talk to? What happens when youth are intoxicated which happens a lot? When is Nunavut going to open up a homeless shelter for youth or detox facilities? The reason why this case sucks is because it highlights the disparity of this Territory for people in need. It was obvious this man did not want to go back home. Did anybody talk with him to ask what was going on at home? I also wonder if this kid was white if people would have responded faster and more quickly to help. We know racialized people tend to be overlooked by the RCMP and other social services. Terrible case and it doesn’t help that the RCMP keeps switching up their story! I am still hoping he will be found.

  6. Posted by Grant on

    Working in shelter is not only job, need having love.

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