Family mourns loss of father found dead in Steinbach months after going missing

It’s not the ending Christine Maynard-Balcaen wanted for her son — a father reported missing last fall amid mental health and addictions struggles.

Ryan Cody Maynard, who was 29 years old when he disappeared last November, was found dead in Steinbach on Wednesday.

Maynard-Balcaen jumped in her car and drove into the southeastern Manitoba city that day, after hearing through the grapevine that RCMP had found a body and cordoned off a section of Hespeler Street.

When she arrived, she ran toward a Mountie at the scene.

“I just kind of yelled out…. ‘Is it Ryan? Is it Ryan? You know, I’m his mother. Is it Ryan? Please tell me it’s Ryan.’ I just wanted this nightmare to end,” she said through tears in an interview with CBC.

“As hard as it is, we’re very relieved that he’s been found.”

The father of a five-year-old was reported missing in November. Maynard-Balcaen said she was devastated to learn from the officer at the scene that the body had been found in a treed area by a seven-year-old.

On Thursday, RCMP said they had found a body Wednesday they believed was linked to an ongoing missing person investigation.

They would not confirm the person was Ryan Maynard or the possible cause of death, deferring to the pending results of the chief medical examiner’s autopsy.

But Maynard-Balcaen says given the known details, she is confident it was her son.

He was last seen on Nov. 24 at a home on Cedar Crescent, a short walk from Hespeler.

Maynard-Balcaen also said she received a call from the chief medical examiner’s office this week and heard descriptions of three tattoos on the body that match ones her son had.

A man does the peace sign with his left hand, which has a large rose tattoo on it.
Ryan Maynard had several distinctive tattoos, including a large rose on his left hand that his mother, Christine Maynard-Balcaen, says was done in honour of his daughter. She says an RCMP officer told her a person found dead in Steinbach, whose identity hasn’t officially been released, had a large rose tattoo on their hand. (Submitted by RCMP)

The Mountie she spoke with at the scene didn’t say it was Ryan either but described a rose tattoo on the left hand of the person whose body was found, she said.

Her son had one just like it covering the entire back of his left hand, in honour of his five-year-old daughter.

Barriers to appropriate supports

While it won’t be clear what led to Ryan’s death until the autopsy results are in, his mother said the months before his disappearance were marked by addictions challenges rooted in mental health struggles.

He was addicted to purple down, a mix of opioids sometimes including heroin and fentanyl, she said.

She and other loved ones, along with Ryan himself, encountered several barriers trying to get him the help he needed.

Maynard-Balcaen said she made a few unsuccessful attempts to get Ryan into treatment in Winnipeg. He eventually got into a month-long program but relapsed, she said.

She also inquired with addiction recovery centres in other provinces, but the family couldn’t afford any that might’ve helped, she said.

“It’s extremely hard to get into these programs, and when you do … they’re not quite enough for people who are addicted to these kinds of drugs.”

Maynard-Balcaen said she isn’t sure yet how she feels about the idea of supervised consumption sites or managed substance use programs, or how those might help people in Manitoba.

“It’s not a horrible idea. Is it solving the addiction problem? No. But is it preventing deaths? Yes.”

‘He just felt helpless’

Not long before he went missing, Ryan tried a Christian-based addictions program in Steinbach that requires patients to abstain from most substances, unless they’re prescribed by a doctor.

That program wasn’t the right fit either, and Ryan went missing about a week after leaving the program, Maynard-Balcaen said.

When he last spoke to family on Nov. 20, he had a new job lined up he was about to start, his mother said.

Allison Zaporozan, the partner of Ryan’s cousin, said she also took Ryan to several places for help.

She wonders if things would’ve been different if there were more services tailored to his needs.

“The hospitals wouldn’t keep him for more than a couple days, and people are so judgy,” said Zaporozan. “He kind of felt like, ‘Why am I here if they’re not going to help me?’… He just felt helpless.”

Zaporozan is struggling to cope not only with the loss, but also the lack of appropriate detox and recovery resources for someone in Ryan’s position, and the stigma around drug misuse.

“The drug problem in Steinbach is ridiculous, and nobody seems to be doing anything about it,” she said.

She said she’s going back to school to be an addictions counsellor to “try to make a change to this community.”

Zaporozan said she’ll always hold on to the bond she shared with Ryan, who “always knew that I understood him.”

His mother says she’ll always remember her son’s “beautiful laugh.”

“Ryan and I had our differences … because it was extremely difficult, but at the same time, we both loved each other very much,” she said.

“I know right now he’d be saying, ‘I’m OK mom…. It’s over.'”

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