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Thousands of runaway girls in Quebec vulnerable to trafficking

Watch: Rachel Lau investigates why thousands of girls in Quebec run away to join gangs.

MONTREAL – On Thursday, Montreal police confirmed that a young girl, missing since July 21, had been located.

Sabrina Lapensée and Brian Macdonald’s daughter Danah had been missing since July 21.

READ MORE: Montreal police ask for help finding missing teen

Every day since she went missing, they said that they would wake up and check to see if Danah had contacted them, but she hadn’t been in touch since mid-August.

“We don’t know if she was in a dumpster or anything,” said Lapensée.

“That’s what we’re scared of. That’s the main thing that we’re worried about. It’s when you’re not hearing from your child. Saying that she’s okay or something like that. You get this weird feeling.”

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Unfortunately, although she’s been located, many might be surprised to learn that, of the over 5,000 children missing in Quebec in 2012, nearly 95 per cent were runaways.

Who are the missing?
“Runaway children continue to account for the biggest majority of missing children cases, not just here in Quebec, but across Canada,” said Pina Arcamone, the Director General of the Missing Children’s Network.

“The ages of the runaway youth is getting younger.”

Of the missing children reported in the last 18 months:

– one child was under the age of 12
– 17 were 13 years old
– 34 were 14 years old
– 39 were 15 years old
– 70 were 16 years old
– 46 were 17 years old

The Missing Children’s Network has dedicated the month of November to raising awareness about runaway youth in Quebec and they’re working with Montreal police to try to bring these missing kids home.

Why do they leave?
“There’s always a message behind each case,” explained Julie Santerre, a spokesperson for the Montreal police.

“There’s something wrong, they’re unhappy or there’s an unresolved issue.”

Arcamone has also noted that in recent years, there has been a shift in where runaways go when they leave home.

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“A lot of the help that these teens are now getting is ‘organized’ help,” she said.

“We have either gang leaders or predators that are just watching, watching out for these vulnerable children.”

READ MORE: Human trafficking in Canada

It is this thought that haunted Danah’s family.

“We used to stay up and have our little nights, like slumber parties,” recalled Lapensée.

“I miss that. I want that back. I just want my little girl back.”

It was the second time that Danah had run away and her family feels helpless. Even though she has been located, they continue to sit by the phone, waiting for that call from their daughter.

“I didn’t think I’d have to go through this,” said Lapensée.

“As long as we’ve got each other, stay together and stay strong, I believe she’ll come home. She’ll come home. Gotta have the faith. That’s the main thing.”