Cédrika Provencher: Our worst fears

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For over the  past  near-decade you could not be in the province of Quebec and not been aware of the story, or at least the face, of Cédrika Provencher.  The 9-year-old girl disappeared on July 31, 2007 near her home in Trois-Rivières. Her parents – chiefly her father, Martin – were in the news regularly asking the public for answers. Cédrika became – literally – a poster-child for lost-innocence and fear. She was / is what Maura Murray is to New Hampshire, what Brianna Maitland is to Vermont, what Alison Parrot was for over a decade to the city of Toronto.

october 27 2007

In the Fall of 2007 I visited Quebec City for a meeting with the Minister of Public Security. I snapped this photo of Cédrika along the artists alley across from the Chateau Frontenac. It could have been taken anywhere: the city was littered with these notices.

Now comes the news that the remains found yesterday by passers-by in woods on the edge of Highway 40 in St-Maurice, near Trois-Rivières, are those of the young girl.  I am not currently living in Quebec,  but I can tell you without an inch of doubt that the province is heartbroken. 

Over the years I’ve thought about this case, but not deeply. I must confess that so many resources were thrown at this case that Cédrika didn’t appear to need my help. In the beginning Pierre Boisvenu and AFPAD fought hard to use it as justification for the Surete du Quebec to initiate a squad specifically dedicated to missing persons in the first 48 hours of disappearance.  I know the Surete du Quebec took the matter seriously because often I couldn’t get things done on Theresa’s case, because the SQ was doubling-down on Cédrika.  For the record, I had no issue with that. I have always believed that public safety resources should be used for current investigations first and foremost.

But then this very immediate case became a cold case. At times it seemed to lose its focus, with police chasing suspects as far away as New Brunswick. The documentary filmmaker, Stephen Parent made a pitch for linking Provencher’s disappearance to the murders of several children in Quebec in 1984. I don’t know what I expected the outcome to be, but it wasn’t this. It wasn’t yesterday’s news that bones were found in some woods less than 10 miles from where the child disappeared. It wasn’t that for the past 8 years Cédrika was most likely right under everyone’s noses: that outcome seemed too much of a cliche.

Hopefully this will sort itself out into some form of satisfactory resolution. At this point, that can only mean justice. The first question everyone will want answered is, how long were the bones there? Had the remains been lying in those woods for the past 8 years, or were they placed there recently? But the broader question – Again, unfortunately – is this: who committed this crime, and had they committed similar crimes before and after July 31st, 2007?

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