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Stranger/Non-family Abduction

If your child is missing or you are worried your child may go missing, please refer to How can we help you? for information on indicators of risk, prevention, and immediate steps.

Non-family or stranger abduction situations involve any child under the age of 18 who is believed to have been wrongfully taken by a non-family member. This may be through the use of physical force, persuasion, or threat of bodily harm.

The terms stranger abduction and non-family abduction are used to describe both cases where a child is taken by a complete stranger, and cases where a child is taken by someone other than his or her parent. In the latter case, the abductor may be an acquaintance, a relative who is not the child’s parent, or someone else who the child has had some kind of contact with — so an individual who is technically not a stranger in the ordinary sense of the word.

In Canada, the abduction of a child by a complete stranger is the rarest, but most alarming, type of missing child case. When they do happen, it has an enormous impact on society, generating wide-ranging media coverage and an overwhelming response from the community.

The Crime

The Criminal Code of Canada has three sections that may apply when a stranger or non-family abduction occurs:

The crime of abduction is a much broader issue than people may perceive. It includes scenarios the public would typically think of as abduction, such as when a child is taken by a stranger off the street and goes missing for a long period of time. However, the definition of abduction may also include situations where a child is abducted for a very short period of time, is located safely and may not have been taken very far. There is no “minimum” period of time that a child needs to be missing for it to qualify as an abduction — all that is required is that the child be taken out of the possession of, without the consent of and against the will of their parent or guardian.

It is important to recognize that cases where the abductor is known to the child are far more common than cases where the abductor is a complete stranger — also, cases where the child is abducted for a short period of time are far more common than cases where the child is abducted for a long period of time.

For additional information on stranger and non-family abduction, please refer to our Stranger/Non-family Abduction section.