Three-year-old Kienan Hebert remains as carefree as always. He was snatched
from his home one night in September and held in captivity for four days, but
his dad can detect no signs of trauma or stress.
Paul Hebert believes an Amber Alert played a pivotal role in keeping Kienan
alive and helping to force an end to the ordeal. As he looks back on the
incident, Mr. Hebert summed up his assessment of the provincewide advisory in
one word: spectacular.
Kienan was taken on Sept. 7 from his home in Sparwood, B.C., 20 minutes from
the Alberta boundary. The RCMP issued an Amber Alert nine hours after he went
missing. The little boy was returned to the family home unharmed four days
The Amber Alert was only one part of a massive effort involving 60
investigators and more than 500 people who searched the wooded, mountainous area
on foot, by horse and in ATVs, motor vehicles, boats and aircraft.
But Mr. Hebert believes Amber Alert was integral to the efforts to bring
Kienan back home safely. “It gave [the kidnapper] no chance. He knew he was
Canada’s most wanted. That made him pretty worried. He could not even go get
groceries,” Mr. Hebert said.
“Everybody knew what was going on. That locked [the abductor] down to
wherever he was at. It definitely did help in our case,” he said.
Some have been critical of the timing for issuing the Amber Alert. The
advisory came nine hours after Kienan went missing. But Mr. Hebert says he
understands why police had to ensure his little boy was missing before issuing
an Amber Alert.
Police had a suspect and they had to try to locate him before issuing an
advisory. “They did their due diligence,” he said. “Once they realized what was
going on, the Amber Alert was announced almost immediately. I’m satisfied with
what was done.”
Before the Amber Alert program was introduced, an abductor could move about
in public much more easily. Police would release some information about a
missing child that the media would report, often hours later. Families and
friends would try drawing attention to the missing person by plastering posters
on street posts.
Since its inception in B.C. six years ago, the Amber Alert program has a
perfect track record. An Amber Alert has been declared 14 times since 2005 and
the children have been located in every incident, Sergeant Dawn Parker, RCMP
co-ordinator of the Amber Alert program in B.C.., said in an interview
Although Amber Alerts are usually not solely responsible for a child being
found, Sgt. Parker said she was aware of a few cases where the program could
claim full credit.
An Amber Alert puts pressure on an abductor, she said. “They will know
everyone is looking for them … knows what they look like, knows what the vehicle
looks like, knows what the child looks like. So there are not many places to
run,” she said.
Police currently have around 650 “partners” who are contacted by e-mail or by
fax when an advisory is issued. They in turn contact their employees or others.
Sgt. Parker could not even guess how many people receive the message. “It’s
huge,” she said. “As soon as it hits someone on their iPhone, BlackBerry,
Twitter or Facebook, it’s all over the place.”
The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association has been encouraging
Canadians since mid-2010 to sign up for free Amber Alerts that will arrive as
text messages on their smartphones.
The potential reach of the program is daunting. During September, the month
in which Kienan was kidnapped, 6.7-billion person-to-person text messages were
sent in Canada, approximately 224 million messages per day.
The wireless Amber Alert has just begun to penetrate the Canadian market of
26 million cellphones. So far, the program has only 27,000 Canadian
subscribers. The program is available in all provinces and territories in
Canada, with registration at no cost, at www.WirelessAMBER.ca or by texting
AMBER to 26237.
The Missing Children’s Society of Canada has gone one step further. Poynt,
a popular app for smartphones that uses GPS technology to locate businesses,
has been modified to push out a notification of a missing child to users in
a specific geographic area. Touching the screen takes the user to the mobile
version of the society’s website where a profile of the child and photo are
Poynt has one million users in Canada. “We’re sure this app will bring
children home,” said Becky Scheer, communications manager for the children’s
An Amber Alert is an advisory of a missing child sent out in the most
serious abduction cases in an effort to ensure that kidnapping does not turn
into murder. Around 60 have been issued in Canada since the first
provincewide program was introduced in 2002.
HOW IT WORKS
Only police can initiate an Amber Alert. Specific criteria must be met
before the advisories are sent out. The criteria differ by province. In
B.C., the missing child must be under 18, in imminent danger and taken
without parental consent or knowledge. A high-quality description of the
victim, the abductor and possibly the vehicle must be available. Also, the
police must reasonably expect the child could be returned or the abductor
apprehended during the alert. An alert will not be sent out for runaways or
for a parental abduction.
The police have 650 partners who receive an Amber Alert. Radio and
television stations interrupt programming to alert the public. Buses with
digital signage, highway message boards and lottery terminals carry the
message. Free text messages are sent to subscribers on smartphones. The
advisory is also sent to several companies and associations such as trucking
firms and the real estate board, as well as Canada Border Services Agency,
BC Transit and BC Ferries. The alert is then re-sent to employees to be
copied and posted across the province.
This a classic example of appropriate and proper use of the AMBER ALERT.
Not so in other cases.
If a mother abducts a child, odds are an amber alert will not be issued.
If a father abducts a child, odds are an amber alert will be issued, and
the police will use their imagination to justify how being a father justifies an
Mother's routinely abduct their own children to prevent or destroy the
relationship with their father and they get the blessing of Ontario Family
There is nothing more devastating than coming home to find the child missing,
all the contents gone and, when father's contact police, they get told, its a
family court matter.
She can even flee overseas and when forced to return a year later, Ontario
Family Court will reward her crimes with an order for sole custody.
That's Ontario Family Law where it takes a dead beat judge to create a dead beat
dad and where the real crime starts.