Date: Thu. Feb. 2 2012 6:02 PM ET
Sixty people, including three teenagers, face child pornography charges in what the Ontario Provincial Police said is the largest bust of its kind in Canadian history.
The OPP said Thursday more than 200 charges were laid against the suspects from across the province. One suspect is also under arrest in the United States.
The charges include sexual assault, child luring, possession of child pornography, distribution of child pornography, and accessing child pornography.
In total 76 search warrants were executed by 24 police departments, resulting in 213 charges.
OPP Acting Commissioner Scott Tod issued an ominous warning to other offenders during a news conference in Vaughan, Ont.
“It’s socially unacceptable and these people know it’s socially unacceptable. It’s their deepest, darkest secret so they should be expecting a knock on the door.”
Police said the suspects in the latest bust, ranging from 16 years old to 69 years old, came from all walks of life, including a child care worker and a Montessori school teacher. Additional arrests are pending.
Canada’s public safety minister congratulated Ontario police on the massive bust on Thursday, saying it was a significant strike against a fast-growing problem.
“On this particular case I am very pleased that the investigation went as well as it did,” Vic Toews told CTV’s Power Play.
“It is very worrisome to note that this is one of the largest-growing areas of crime. We need to, in fact, give our police some additional resources in order for them to be able to keep up with technology. That has become a real challenge for the police.”
Toews said Canada needed better laws to govern online crimes, and said the government was committed to introducing “lawful access” legislation that would let police track individuals who access child pornography online.
The legislation would require Internet service providers to leave a “back door” for police to access after they have obtained a legal warrant.
“Right now there are mechanisms by which these pornographers and organized crime can avoid being detected, simply because of the technology,” Toews said.
Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner has said there are serious concerns about legislation that would grant police such surveillance powers. An association of Canadian police chiefs, however, said there is currently a gap in their ability to track organized crime.
Twenty-two victims identified
Included in Thursday’s arrests are 15 men from the Greater Toronto Area, five from Ottawa, five from Hamilton, five from Ottawa, four from Windsor, three from Sudbury and three from the Niagara Region.
A 16-year-old from Niagara Falls faces one count of making child pornography and an additional count of possessing child pornography.
Members of the provincial strategy to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation on the internet were involved in the sweep along with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
“The provincial strategy to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation on the Internet has worked collectively to identify a large number of people who have been preying on the most vulnerable people in society; that is our children,” said Tod.
Police said 22 victims have been identified but expect more to come forward in the future.
Since August 2006 there have been 16,131 investigations conducted by the Provincial Strategy partners and OPP Child Sexual Exploitation Unit resulting in 5,837 charges against 1,867 people.
Vaughan MP Julian Fantino, a former OPP commissioner, congratulated the force on the bust on Thursday, calling it a significant operation that helped ensure the safety of Ontarians.
“They are once again demonstrating results in making our families and communities safer,” Fantino said in a statement. “Our government continues to take important action to ensure the most vulnerable in our society are protected.”