Liberals spending $22M to combat 'absolute evil' of online child pornography
Funds will expand national strategy that works with industry, police and global partners
Canada's Liberal government is spending more than $22 million to prevent the online sexual abuse of children, through an expanded strategy that partners with police, digital industry and international allies.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced details of the investment, earmarked in this year's budget, in Ottawa on Tuesday. It expands on a strategy aimed at raising awareness, reducing the stigma around reporting and enhancing Canada's ability to pursue and prosecute offenders.
The investment includes:
- $2.1 million to intensify engagement with digital industry to develop new tools online and support effective operating principles.
- $4.9 million for research, public engagement, awareness and collaboration with non-governmental organizations.
- $15.25 million to internet child exploitation units in provincial and municipal police forces across the country.
Goodale said police-reported incidents of child pornography in Canada increased by 288 per cent between 2010 and 2017, and said this type of crime is notoriously under-reported.
Tuesday's announcement follows a meeting last week with Canada's so-called Five Eyes intelligence partners in London: the U.K., the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, where the sexual exploitation of children topped the agenda.
"Very young girls are the principal victims, and their victimization can last a very long time. The consequences are painful and devastating," Goodale said.
"In the Five Eyes countries, we are totally united in our determination to combat the absolute evil of child sexual exploitation."
Goodale said the national strategy recognizes technology is "increasingly facilitating the easy, borderless access to vast volumes of abhorrent images."
The images are shared around the world, making investigations increasingly complex, he said.
Goodale called on private companies to do more to stop the spread of online child pornography, including improving technology to identify offensive and damaging material quickly. He suggested anyone who doesn't step up should be held to financial account.
"If human harm is done, if a child is terrorized for the rest of their life because of what happened to them on the internet ... if there are other damages and costs, then maybe the platform that made that possible should bear the financial consequences."
Conservatives vow crackdown
Conservative MP and public safety critic Pierre Paul-Hus called Goodale's news conference "nothing but a reannouncement in the dying days of a scandal-plagued government" that will do nothing to help victims of violent crime.
Paul-Hus said the Conservatives are committed to combating child abuse, pointing to policy proposals put forward by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer in May that would impose mandatory five-year prison sentences for anyone convicted of a serious sexual crime against children.
"A Conservative government will always put the rights of victims ahead of the rights of criminals," he said in a statement. "We will ensure that any monster who harms or sexually exploits a child will be behind bars where they belong for a very long time."