Will Sutherland was at a community potluck when he got a text message informing him that Daltyn Evans, the Edmonton man who had been missing from the city since Oct 20, was found alive. Sutherland, the administrator and Youth Theatre Project coordinator at the Pride Center of Edmonton, shared the news with the 30 or so gathered for food, and there was collective sigh of relief. But there were also lingering questions about what had happened, how Daltyn was doing, and whether or not there was still reason to be concerned.
Kris Wells, the civilian chair of the Edmonton police queer liaison committee, could only say this when asked for more information: “I can’t release any other public information out of respect for Daltyn’s privacy. Family and friends are now focussing on his recovery and return home.”
As someone who works with Edmonton’s gay community, Sutherland sees that there is a desire to have a few more details released about what happened in Evans’ case.
“I think it needs to be clarified that it was a personal issue, if that was the case,” says Sutherland. Doing so would “take the edge off for the people who had been concerned about Evans and their own safety,” he says.
It was not until being interviewed for this story that Sutherland learnt that Evans was currently in a hospital room in Saskatchewan. Also interesting to note that for all their proactive communication, Sutherland reports he did not receive a single email from the Edmonton police queer liaison committee alerting him to the case.
He first heard about Evans’ disappearance through a group Facebook message and then within hours received eight emails about it from different people within the gay community. Because of who sent the emails, how the forwarded email was worded and the focus on the rainbow decals that were reported to be on Evans’ vehicle, Sutherland and people around him were concerned that Evans’ case could have been a gaybashing. “How could this happen?” Sutherland thought. “I wondered whether this was this another Matthew Sheppard story.”
For Sutherland, who moved from rural Alberta within the last year, Evans’ disappearance was a case of mixed emotion. While he was concerned for Evans’ and others safety, he was also comforted by the swift and grand effort by the gay community through the internet. It illuminated for him how “connected and astronomically large the gay community in Edmonton is.”
And he wasn’t the only one. Many of the various emails, Facebook messages and texts that spread the news contained pats on the back like this one, sent out by the “Daltyn Evans has been reported missing!” Facebook group: “It was because of all the emails and information out there that the individual in Saskatchewan knew we were looking for him and contacted us this morning.”
For Steamworks Bathhouse manager Clark Cameron, Evans’ disappearance was a very different story. He first heard about Evans’ case when he saw a missing person poster while walking in downtown Edmonton. He didn’t immediately consider Evans’ disappearance to be related to his sexuality but does admit it was at the back of his mind. He was struck by how there seem to be more stories about missing men in the media lately. At the same time as many people were looking for Evans, there was also a search for another Edmonton man, Dylan Koshman.
Working at the bathhouse, Cameron respects his clients’ space and so he doesn’t always have a chance to hear what stories are going on. But he does find it concerning that if he hadn’t seen the poster, he might not have known about Evans and his disappearance.
“Places like bathhouses are often left out of the loop,” says Cameron. “There is this unfair stigma still attached to them, a false assumption that people leave their brains at home when they come to a bathhouse — this just isn’t true.” He points to the fact that during the Canadian federal debates many people watched them on the bathhouse’s big-screen TV and he plans to have the American election on the TV next week.
Cameron thinks there is a danger that if groups are left out, important information will not get to all those that need it. He hopes that in the future, community members will think to involve the bathhouses when incidents occur.
So while many people feel the story of Daltyn Evans has a happy, if slightly unresolved ending, other see it as proof that there are still bridges that need to be built and that whole groups are missing from the “community.”