2024 Women of the Year Awards: Innovator – Runner-up Megan Bassendale

Megan Bassendale, founder and director of Forensic Guardians International, is a runner-up of the Innovator category of the 2024 Women of the Year Awards


Megan Bassendale
Founder and director, Forensic Guardians International

People don’t like to talk about death, so the field of body identification hasn’t seen much innovation, according to forensic anthropologist Megan Bassendale.

During her 10 years with the International Red Cross, the Vancouverite travelled all over the world to help identify human remains in conflict zones. And she encountered the same problem everywhere: “You lack tools, you lack information and you lack this ability to bring them together in a way that makes for cost-effective and faster identifications.”

She saw firsthand how a sudden surge of bodies can overwhelm local capacities: the work to track and manage bodies is done by hand so there ends up being a huge missing persons problem, and ­families are left desperate for answers.

To bridge gaps in the process, Bassendale returned to Vancouver in 2017 and launched Forensic Guardians International in 2018. With four employees and six advisors, the fatality and identification ­management company provides consulting, advisory and training services. It also ships products like body recovery kits, gravesite markers and body tags to areas of conflict like Libya, Ukraine and Gaza.

No other organization does it all under one umbrella, insists Bassendale. And FGI leverages technology in a unique way as well: Castlegar-based Selkirk Innovates helped Bassendale develop an app that collects information more efficiently and helps make faster connections between postmortem and antemortem data. “We’re testing it in Ukraine… and we’re trying to get it into Gaza,” she says.