Canada is the destination of many child abductors and runaways. What
travelers may not know is that Revenue Canada Customs, whose primary
purpose is to prevent the illegal transportation of goods including
firearms, drugs, alcohol, stolen vehicles, etc., into Canada, also has a
unique system in place to identify and recover missing children at the
What began as a voluntary Canadian customs initiative at a few ports, has
become an internationally recognized and respected system to recover
missing children. International Project Return is viewed as one of the
most cohesive and well-implemented programs and the only one of its kind
among border agencies worldwide. More than 700 reported missing child
recoveries testify to the effectiveness of the program. In 1998 alone,
119 recoveries were reported: 68 runaways and 51 abducted children.
Customs is ideally placed to intercept missing children. As Canada’s
first line of defense, customs officers are in a unique position to
identify children in distress because of abduction by a stranger, the
non-custodial parent or because they are runaways or abandoned children.
In addition to their regular duties, customs officers are trained
extensively on techniques to identify and recover missing children.
Posters of missing children are also kept at each border crossing, which
helps keep the officers alert to children who are missing. Indicators
that officers may look for include:
* An adult traveling alone with a child ~ Peculiar behavior of the
child such as severe crying and restlessness, or unusual quietness and
* Inability of an adult to provide identification for the child or
notice of permission to travel with the child.
* An unusually large amount of luggage, clothes, toys, etc.,
specifically if the occupants in the vehicle claim they only plan to
stay for a short while.
* Clothes or other items that are seasonably inappropriate.
* Teenagers traveling without adults.
If an officer is still suspicious after conducting an initial interview
at the primary inspection line, he/she can refer the traveler for further
questioning. In the case of non-Canadians and non-residents, further
questioning will be conducted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
To enhance abilities to locate and recover missing and abducted children,
International Project Return joined forces with the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police Missing Children’s Registry, Citizenship and Immigration
Canada and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade,
Consular Operations. This partnership, called our missing children
program, operates as one unit that assists police forces and other
agencies across Canada and internationally in locating and returning
missing children. The partnership with these four departments provides
contacts to over 200 customs services, national and international law
enforcement agencies, embassies, foreign government and non-government
agencies and foreign social services in all countries of the world.
Agencies worldwide can request guidance and assistance from Revenue
Canada customs, specifically in abduction and runaway cases that are
Canada-bound. For instance, if it is believed that an abductor or runaway
might be in route to Canada, all 700 Canadian ports can be alerted upon
request within 20 minutes or less. This includes airports, land borders
and sea ports. In addition to training for domestic and foreign customs
and immigration officers and law enforcement, International Project
Return has also provided training to airline personnel, and other
agencies that are involved with the recovery of missing children.
Travelers accompanied by a child should be in possession of proof of
citizenship, the child’s birth certificate, passport, and written
authorization from the other parent or legal guardian which permits
travel with the child. Although none of these items provide exemption
from further questioning, having them available may help reduce the
inconvenience of being unnecessarily delayed.
There is not an infallible means to prevent children from disappearing to
a foreign country, but with model programs like International Project
Return and our missing children program in place, there is hope for these
children to be rescued. We provide a 24 hours a day service to assist
officers or agencies requiring assistance or information.
For more information about Revenue Canada Customs International Project
Return or our missing children program, contact International Project
Return at (613) 990-8585 and/or the RCMP Missing Children’s Registry at
(613) 993-1525. Our toll free number is 1-877-318-3576.
International Project Return/Our Missing Children
March 11, 1999