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Seven northern Ont. men busted in huge online child exploitation investigation


A province-wide child sexual abuse investigation by Ontario Provincial Police dubbed Project Aquatic has resulted in hundreds of charges, including seven male suspects from northern Ontario.

The investigations were both reactive and proactive and took place between Feb. 19 and Feb. 29, OPP said in a news release Wednesday morning.

Investigators arrested people making, possessing and distributing child sexual abuse material – referred to in the legal system as child pornography -- and charged 64 people with 348 offences.

Of the seven suspects from northern Ontario, three cannot be named.

"It is either a publication ban or that the victim would be identified if we release the name of the accused," OPP spokesperson Agata Czajkowski told in an email.

"This is typical in child sexual exploitation investigations."

Seven northern men accused

The northern suspects range in age from 18 to 54.

The youngest of the group, an 18-year-old man, is from Thunder Bay and is charged with three counts each of luring a person under 16 and making sexually explicit material available. He was released from custody and is scheduled to appear in court June 10.

A 28-year-old man from Thunder Bay is still in custody after being charged with making child pornography available, accessing it and failing to comply with probation and three release orders. He is scheduled back in court June 4.

A 27-year-old from Greater Sudbury is charged with agreeing or arranging a sexual offence against a child and making child pornography. He was released from custody and his next court date is scheduled for May 22.

Two men, ages 27 and 38, from Sault Ste. Marie were charged with possession of child pornography in the investigation. Both have been released from custody and will return to court June 3 and May 27 respectively. The younger of the pair is also charged with luring a person under 16 and five counts of making child pornography available.

The 38-year-old Sault man was charged Feb. 27 after city police raided a Goulais Avenue home and found three lifelike, child-sized sex dolls.

Sault police said the dolls seized resemble children approximately 2-14 years of age.

"The Criminal Code of Canada 163.1(1)(a) defines child pornography as a photographic, film, video or other visual representation of someone under the age of 18," police said.

A 32-year-old Powassan man is charged with making and distributing child pornography as well as two counts of possession. He is scheduled to appear in court May 21 in North Bay.

Finally, the oldest suspect is a 54-year-old man from Coleman Township who is charged with two counts of agreeing or arranging a sexual offence against a child and making child pornography. He was released from custody and is scheduled to appear in North Bay court May 14.

30 children safeguarded

Through Project Aquatic, police identified 34 child victims and were able to safeguard 30 as a result of 129 investigations throughout the province.

"Notably, during the investigation, one individual set up a meeting with undercover investigators intending to meet with a child in real life for a sexual purpose," OPP said.

"Another individual was in possession of approximately 21 terabytes of data containing child sexual abuse material."

Police said the children identified were provided with "victim support."

Staggering statistics

The provincial internet child exploitation units from 27 police departments completed a total of 82,082 investigations between 2006 and 2023.

"Our collective strength lies in our ongoing commitment to protect children from the impacts of sexual exploitation," OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique is quoted as saying in the news release.

"We stand together in supporting victims, preventing victimization, and dismantling predatory activities. We are unrelenting in our mission to safeguard children and hold perpetrators accountable."

In those 17 years, more than 29,000 child sexual abuse-related charges were laid against nearly 7,500 people.

Additionally, 8,638 child sexual abuse investigations were completed just in 2023 alone.

"These completed investigations demonstrate the scope of the issue regarding child sexual abuse material, which remains a pervasive safety issue that is often unseen by many members of the public," OPP said.

Det. Staff Sgt. Tim Brown is the provincial ICE strategy lead for the OPP.

"Child sexual exploitation is a grave crime with lasting effects," Brown said.

"We need everyone's support to combat this community issue. If you see something, report it. Together, we can create a safer environment for all children, ensuring their well-being and protection."

Signy Arnason of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection said the use of technology in sexual abuse against children creates ongoing harm.

"Survivors of child sexual abuse material have repeatedly said how important it is to get the images and videos of their abuse off the internet," Arnason is quoted as saying in the news release.

"Our agency sends 20,000+ removal notices to hosting providers every day. In addition to the critical efforts of police, you can help protect a victim by reporting to if you are concerned about someone's online interaction with children."

Anyone can report child exploitation or instances of online child abuse by contacting local police or 911 in an emergency. Top Stories

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