Monday marks the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of Cédrika Provencher of Trois-Rivières. And if over the ensuing decade incidents of children being abducted by strangers have repeatedly made headlines and received heavy media attention, they nevertheless remain relatively rare, according to statistics compiled by the RCMP.
Cédrika’s story did not end well. Her remains were found by some hunters in December 2015 and no one has ever been arrested in connection with her disappearance.
But as horrible as these cases are for parents, most children who go missing are found, and usually quite quickly. RCMP statistics for 2016 show that 59 per cent of missing children reports were closed within 24 hours and, in 92 per cent of cases, within a week of the file’s being opened.
In Quebec, 31 children under four years old were listed as missing in 2015, 33 in 2016 and seven so far this year. All those files were closed — with could mean the child was found dead or alive — except for eight.
The RCMP’s numbers do not distinguish between parental abductions and those committed by strangers, nor do they exclude runaways or children who may have been lost in the woods. But the federal force notes that in most cases, parents are the abductors.
Children aged 5 to 13 are the most numerous to go missing — 545 disappearances were reported in 2015, 428 in 2016 and 268 thus far in 2017.
Only nine of those files remain open, less than one per cent of the total, according to the RCMP.
Among teenagers, the number of disappearances increases exponentially, but most of those cases are runaways. In 2015 alone, there were 6,252 disappearances of young Quebecers aged 14-17 in the province. All except three were found.
Nationwide, 108 children younger than 14 are still being sought. The Canadian Centre for Child Protection has tracked abductions where the children who disappeared were later killed. Between 1970 and 2010, 155 children younger than 16 — 31 of them from Quebec — were found dead.
The Centre also examined the circumstances surrounding those fatal abductions. A total of 41 per cent occurred during the summer, 45 per cent occurred on Friday or a Saturday and in 67 per cent of cases, the child was on their way to somewhere — usually a park or a friend’s house — on foot or on their bicycle.
Pina Arcamone of the Missing Children’s Network said the rate of child disappearances has remained stable over the past 30 years. “Criminal abductions remain a relatively rare occurrence,” she said. “We’re talking about less than one per cent of child disappearances here in Quebec and in Canada.”
Pierre Faubert, a clinical psychologist, said a child abduction such as that of Cédrika Provencher in 2007 creates a sense of urgency, of fear and emptiness for some, even if they don’t know the family of the victim, especially when the crime remains unsolved — no arrest and no funeral for the victim.
“It’s an unsolved mystery, and human beings are always anxious of the unknown,” he said.
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