CALGARY – It is vital that we keep our children safe and protect them from sexual exploitation of any kind. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, kids are spending more time online, making them more vulnerable to cyber threats, including online sexual abuse. The Government of Canada is committed to protecting children from this terrible and heinous crime.
Today, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Honourable Bill Blair, announced over $1.2 million in federal funding over two years to increase the investigative capacity of Alberta’s local Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) Units.
“The sexual exploitation of children is an intolerable crime and its victims suffer devastating and long-lasting consequences. Technological advances have helped keep us connected but they also provide new opportunities for criminals,” said Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
“It is crucial that our law enforcement agencies have the tools they need to address these increasingly sophisticated online crimes. This funding will provide our dedicated Internet Child Exploitation Units in Alberta with the additional resources they need to support the critical work they do to keep our children safe.”
The Calgary and Edmonton police services will use this funding to bolster their capacity to prevent online child sexual exploitation as well as identify and charge perpetrators of this crime. Funding will go towards hiring investigators and civilian staff to ensure Alberta’s ICE Units can meet the growing demand for their services. In addition, funding will support the procurement of specialized equipment and tools that will enable investigators to lawfully access crucial digital evidence.
“With the pandemic, we know children are spending more time online, which can leave them vulnerable to exploitation,” said Deputy Chief Paul Cook, Calgary Police Service.
“Our investigators remain committed to protecting children online and this funding will allow us to increase our capacity to conduct additional child sexual exploitation investigations to meet the growing demand and keep our kids safe from online predators.”
Enhancing the operational capacity of Alberta’s local ICE Units will also facilitate information sharing and cross-jurisdictional efforts between ICE Units across Canada. This cooperation between police jurisdictions is critical for keeping children safe from this often-borderless crime.
“As online connectivity becomes more and more pervasive in our lives, internet child exploitation is a growing problem that knows no jurisdictional boundaries,” said Deputy Chief Kevin Brezinski, Edmonton Police Service.
“Alberta police services continue to work together through Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) to stop internet child exploitation, and this funding will help us keep up with the increasing demands and complexity of this highly specialized investigative area.”
Funding is being made available under the National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet and through the Contribution Program to Combat Serious and Organized Crime (CPCSOC).
Public Safety Canada leads the National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet, in partnership with the RCMP, Justice Canada and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, a non-governmental organization.
Building on investments in Budgets 2017 and 2018 to combat online child sexual exploitation, Budget 2019 expanded its investment with an additional $22.24 million over three years to better protect children. That $22.24 million included $15 million to enhance the capacity of ICE Units in provincial and municipal police forces.