Remarks by Minister Goodale announcing the expansion of the National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet


Ottawa, Ontario
August 6, 2019

Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for coming.

A week ago today, I was in London, meeting with my counterparts responsible for public safety and national security in the Five Eyes alliance - the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

We covered many serious topics - cyber security, the collection of battlefield evidence against Daesh, violent right-wing extremism, counter-radicalization, deadly social harms conveyed by social media, and more.

But the topic that topped the agenda was the horrendous crime of sexual exploitation of children, especially using the Internet.

It’s a crime with global impact. And it’s increasing. Driven by technology.

Police-reported incidents of child pornography in Canada increased by 288% between 2010 and 2017 - from 5 cases per 100,000 of population, to 18. And we know this type of crime is notoriously under-reported.

Very young girls are the principal victims, and their victimization can last a very long time. The consequences are painful and devastating.

In the Five Eyes countries, we are totally united in our determination to combat the “absolute evil” of child sexual exploitation.

That includes sharing intelligence in tracking online predators, and engaging the digital industry worldwide to take down vile images and prevent their posting in the first place.

The major companies were with us in London - Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, Google and Snap, as well as Roblox.

We reiterated our expectation that industry leaders will make safety for children a priority on their platforms. They agreed to work with the Five Eyes over the next few months, on a set of principles to guide their digital behaviour, including the major operators helping smaller firms to safeguard the wellbeing of children as well.

I have to give a shout-out here to Lianna McDonald and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection based in Winnipeg for the leadership which they have shown here in Canada, and internationally, to give this serious criminal problem the focus and attention it deserves.

Much of the substance that we discussed in London was compiled by the Canadian Centre. They were recognized by other countries, and by the digital companies, as indispensable partners in the global and cyber battle against child sexual exploitation.

In Canada, we have had a National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet since 2004. It was introduced but my former colleague, Anne McLellan. Among other things, it provides some federal financial support for the Canadian Centre in Winnipeg - including

Over the past few years, our government has worked to strengthen efforts:

  • to raise public awareness about this crime;
  • to reduce the stigma associated with reporting it;
  • to increase our capacity to pursue and prosecute offenders; and
  • to find new ways to prevent it and combat it.

In 2017, we invested $6 million over five years for greater awareness, policy coordination and research, as well as funding for Project Arachnid, an online tool to identify and remove child abuse material.

It’s operated by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. Project Arachnid can scan 12,000 images per second - detecting sexual exploitation materials on the Internet. Service providers are notified to remove the dangerous content. Since 2016 nearly 80 billion images have been processed and four million notices have been dispatched.

In 2018, we added $19 million over five years, ramping up to $5.8 million every year ongoing, for the RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre.

They do such crucial work, and I want to pause a moment to applaud the personal strength and fortitude of all police officers and other intervenors who dedicate themselves to this very tough work. Dealing with the images of horrific exploitation every day, all day long, in intensely traumatic. In addition to supporting the victims, we need to ensure that law enforcement have the counselling and services in place to combat the inevitable PTSI that their officers will suffer.

Today we are expanding our National Strategy for the Protection of Children, with another $22.24 million over three years. I’m pleased to announce:

  • just over $2.1 million to intensify our engagement with digital industry to help maintain their focus, develop new tools online and support effective operating principles;
  • $4.9 million will go toward more research, public engagement, awareness, and collaboration with NGOs;
  • And $15.25 million will be provided to Internet Child Exploitation Units in provincial and municipal police forces across the country, to enhance their capacity. We will also help to better inform and upgrade the work of prosecutors.

This expansion of our National Strategy recognizes that technology is increasingly facilitating the easy, borderless access to vast volumes of abhorrent images. They are shared globally. Investigations are increasingly complex. Awareness raising is critical in a fully collaborative effort.

No child should ever become a victim of sexual exploitation of any kind.

These are among the worst crimes imaginable - intolerable to every decent human being.

The Government of Canada will continue to work vigorously with all available public and private sector partners, and our international allies, to keep our children safe, to prevent further victimization, and to bring perpetrators to justice.

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