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The media’s forgotten children

by Archives November 20, 2007

Last week it was announced that the reward for information leading to the return of abducted child Cedrika Provencher had reached $100,000. This is certainly a positive for her family, as there is now significant financial incentive for someone to come forward with information. But what about all the other missing children?
According to the Government of Canada’s National Missing Children Services Report, there were over 66,000 reported cases of children going missing in Canada in 2001 (the most recent figures in this report) – this is a staggeringly high number. And Quebec is second only to Ontario in the number of reported missing children. However, with well publicized cases such as that of Cedrika Provencher, are many other missing children’s stories being neglected by the media and the public? The answer is yes.
Canada’s Missing Children’s Network is a wonderful resource for the parents and families of children who have gone missing. The program publishes the children’s date of birth, their photograph, the date of their abduction, and for those cases involving children who disappeared many years ago, the website also offers age-enhanced photos. What’s unfortunate however is that most people do not check this site on a regular basis (if at all), so most are not aware of the cases which are not covered by the mainstream media.
When a Google search for Cedrika Provencher was performed, it yielded over 130,000 hits. But when the names of two other missing children were taken from the Missing Children’s website and searched, the results were quite different.
The first example was the case of Sandrine Duret. She was four years-old at the time of her abduction in 2006 from Ste-Sophie, about 65 km northeast of Montreal. When her name was searched on Google, only 40,000 hits came up. That’s less than a third of the results for Cedrika Provencher.
But it got even worse. The next missing child was Pamela Babin-Benoit. She disappeared from Laval less than two months after Cedrika went missing, and yet when searching for her name on Google, only six results came up. And of those six, only four were relevant!
So how is it that two families’ children go missing within two months of each other, and one gets 130,000 search results and the other only four? Is one child more important than the other?
The answer again lies in the media. For whatever reason, the mainstream media has decided to elevate Cedrika Provencher’s case to near celebrity status.
Networks scrambled for exclusive interviews with her parents, childhood abduction experts were interviewed on the air, and a media encampment was created outside the Trois-Rivieres home near the site of the abduction.
French language news station Le Canal Des Nouvelles reporter Claude Poirier even went on air and gave his personal cellular phone number, along with a promise not to involve the police, for information leading to Cedrika’s safe return.
Now, I’m not saying that this is a bad thing; on the contrary, it greatly increases the prospects of her being found, because Quebecers, and for a certain time Canadians, were made aware of the fact that this little girl had been kidnapped. And public awareness clearly helps in the finding and safe return of missing children.
But all of this concentrated media attention is so overblown that it has overshadowed the numerous other cases of children disappearing.
Where was Claude Poirier when Babin-Benoit went missing?
How about when Sandrine Duret disappeared?
Where was the media when the other 65,997-plus children disappeared?
These are all important questions. Today’s society lives for the glamourized and the celebrity – ‘whatever sells’ or so the saying goes. The media has been a blatant propagator of these trends and tendencies.
No one case of a missing child is more or less important than the next, and the media needs to keep that in mind when deciding what to report.
It’s a responsibility that should not be taken lightly, because each child’s life is equally important.

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