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Missing girl on Vancouver Island

Two weeks ago, Shelley Fillipoff put everything on hold and flew from Ottawa to Victoria, B.C., where, day by day, she searches the city streets. She plans to stay there until she finds her daughter.

Fillipoff, an elementary school teacher at the Queen Elizabeth School in Perth, took the trip after a series of phone calls she received from her daughter, Emma, 26.

Emma was in a fragile emotional state and was living in a women’s shelter. With a history of mental illness in the family, her mother was worried.

Over the course of five days, her phone calls home alternated between asking for help and pushing it away.

“For every phone call that said, ‘I need your help. Would you come?’ There was at least one that followed that said, ‘No, no, please don’t. Let me do this by myself, Mum. I need to figure things out.’ And I respected that.”

But to the mother’s ear, the last call seemed different. On the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 28, Shelley heard something in her daughter’s voice that led her to a decision. She lied and promised not to come, then she bought a plane ticket. Her daughter needed her.

At 11:00 that night she arrived at the Sandy Merriman House, but was told Emma had left the shelter five hours earlier.

Shelley couldn’t find her, and she has not been seen since. All of her possessions, however, including her laptop, her passport and recently borrowed library books, were found inside the 20-year-old Mazda Emma drove.

Emma, who trained and has worked as a chef, has no history of disappearing, no criminal record and no history with drugs.

Yet, staff at the shelter told Shelley they feared Emma could be a danger to herself.

Shelley said she is staying focused on her search, not on thinking about what might be.

“I can’t sit, I can’t sleep, I can’t eat,” she said. “What am I going to do? I have to look for her. That’s the bottom line: I’m going to find her. I’m going to make sure she’s safe. I don’t know that I’m always positive, but I’m always positive that my love for her is undying and that we as a family can’t be without one of ours.

“I can’t be without one of my kids, so I’m going to find her.”

So, every day she works to build her network of people who know Emma or who might be in a position to cross paths with her. She talks regularly with the Victoria police, updates the Help us find Emma Fillipoff page on Facebook at, and she distributes flyers with her daughter’s picture.

“I’m working with everybody here,” she said.

Emma, whose often-braided hair reached below her waist, is described as sensitive, shy, artistic and dreamy. She is five-foot-five and somewhere around 100 pounds.

Shelley Fillipoff said she has set no time limit on the search for her daughter.

“My search is going to be until I find her safe.”

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