MONTREAL – Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport is boosting the number of ads for missing children in the sprawling facility in the hopes of bringing more of them home.
Posters of missing kids will now be displayed on some 100 screens in the Montreal airport terminal.
The Canada Border Services Agency and Enfant-Retour Quebec, the province’s missing children’s network, are hoping the awareness campaign will make a difference.
They also hope it will be picked up by other airports across Canada.
Pina Arcamone, who runs the Quebec missing kids’ network, says the goal is to get air travellers to be more vigilant.
“If it was your child, you would want as many eyes as possible being on the lookout,” she said Thursday at an airport news conference.
Arcamone also wants airports outside the province to join the Quebec initiative.
“I just felt I had to challenge the rest of Canada to follow suit because it’s just too important,” she said. “We’re not asking for money, we’re asking for eyes.”
The Canada Border Services Agency says its officers have helped return 1,700 missing children to their families since 1986.
“Last year, 12 children were returned to Quebec thanks to CBSA officers across Canada,” said Pierre Provost, the agency’s airport director for the Quebec region.
Arcamone says statistics show that one in five missing children are located because somebody recognized them in a photo.
Specially trained CBSA officers have also played a role in trying to prevent abductions at airports and other border points.
They’re trained to look for specific signs.
“(Like) a parent going on vacation for two weeks, but leaving with a trunkful of clothes and five suitcases; or leaving with a baby, but no baby bag and no baby formula,” Arcamone said.
She added that missing children can be anywhere in the world and she cited examples of where vigilance has paid off.
“In the early ’90s, two young Torontonians were located in North Africa, thanks to a businessman who worked on an oil rig in that country,” she told reporters. “During his return to Canada, the man saw a picture of the two young boys in a neighbourhood corner store and he immediately contacted our office.”
Arcamone said thanks to that alert businessman, the boys were reunited with their mother.
She also cited the case of a young man who was returned to his mother in Florida in 1996 after a woman from Magog, Que., remembered spotting him while visiting Central Europe.
Arcamone said that, in any given year, about 7,000 children are reported missing in Quebec and over 50,000 in Canada. The majority are runaways: “We’re looking at almost 90 per cent of all our missing children are actually runaways,” she said.
“I would say a good 12 to 13 per cent are parental abductions and less than one per cent are stranger abductions.”
Arcamone says those numbers have remained stable over the last decade.