mtl-surkis

The former Quebec director of the Jewish advocacy organization B'nai Brith had previously argued the images on his computer were for research purposes. ((CBC) )

The former director of B'nai Brith Quebec, Bill Surkis, has pleaded guilty to child pornography charges after agreeing to a plea bargain.

Surkis and his wife made a brief appearance at the Montreal courthouse Wednesday morning

In return for a guilty plea to charges of possessing and accessing child pornography, the Crown dropped a charge of distributing child pornography, said prosecutor Cynthia Gyenizse.

Explicit files were discovered on Surkis' computer when he brought it in for repairs in 2008.

The technician contacted police after 86 videos and 153 photos were found, including images of girls aged six to 12 years.

Surkis's lawyer had previously said he would argue the videos were downloaded as part of research Surkis was undertaking.

"The purpose of his viewing the child pornography material [was] to educate himself on the topic of child pornography," lawyer Steven Slimovitch told CBC News outside court in November 2009. "Then he would go into schools and give lectures on people abusing people."

But, prosecutors said there was no evidence of that. Surkis had not been hired anywhere to research child pornography and had not begun work on a study, they said.

Surkis's admission of guilt came as a surpise to those who knew the man who also served as the Academic Dean at John Abbott College for 22 years. He had also served as the executive director of the Holocaust Centre in Montreal.

"Shocking — a person like that you hold in high esteem," said one woman who attended proceedings at the Montreal courthouse.

"The shock is how come it was in the closet for so long," said another man.

Surkis now faces a minimum sentence of three months behind bars.

He is due back in court Sept. 27.

In the meantime, Surkis remains free on very strict conditions. The father and grandfather was ordered to stay away from anyone under the age of 18 in private locations unless another adult, who was aware of the charges against him, was present.

He was also forbidden from accessing the Internet unless it was for work. In such cases, he was prohibited from erasing the web history from his computer.

Surkis was also barred from leaving the province while he awaits sentencing.

With files from The Canadian Press