Countering Online Child Sexual Exploitation: Sharing Knowledge, Enhancing Safety - Closed consultation
From Public Safety Canada
Current Status: Closed
This consultation ran from March to April 2018.
This process supports the Government of Canada’s effort to prevent and address online child sexual exploitation in Canada.
The National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet was launched in 2004 as Canada’s response to online child sexual exploitation. The National Strategy is a horizontal initiative led by Public Safety Canada that brings together the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Department of Justice and the Canadian Centre Child Protection, as partners, to provide a coordinated approach to enhance Canada’s efforts. The National Strategy was renewed and expanded in 2009.
Since this time, online child exploitation continues to expand exponentially, and there has been considerable contextual change as a result of evolving technologies and increased access by Canadians to online platforms. Through this targeted consultation process, Public Safety Canada seeks to hear from those most closely associated with combatting online child sexual exploitation and supporting victims on how the Strategy could be bolstered and modernized to continue to effectively protect children.
This engagement process provides an opportunity for key stakeholders and partners including law enforcement, criminal justice, victim services, as well as representatives from provincial and territorial governments, non-governmental organizations, the technology sector, and subject matter experts, to share their knowledge and insights.
The results of this consultation will help inform the Government of Canada’s way forward in modernizing the National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet.
Reporting to Canadians
A full report on the consultation will be provided to participants, as well as a detailed report on the online survey.
Summary of events
March 27-28 2018
In-person consultation meeting
March- April 2018
Online survey for targeted stakeholders to obtain feedback on key issues related to online child sexual exploitation
What we heard
Since 2004, Public Safety has led the National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet (National Strategy). The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Department of Justice and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P) are partners under the Strategy. The Strategy has been integral in providing a coordinated approach to online child sexual exploitation (CSE) by building law enforcement investigational capacity and supporting prevention through research, education and awareness.
Over that time, the nature, scale and complexity of online child sexual exploitation have evolved, and reports of online child sexual exploitation have continued to increase. With an overall goal of contributing to an updated and modernized Strategy, Public Safety Canada gathered approximately 70 stakeholders from across Canada on March 27 and 28, 2018 to share their experiences and insights about key next steps. The group was diverse, encompassing law enforcement, policy-makers, industry, victim service providers and academics. Relevant stakeholders were also invited to participate in an online questionnaire following the in-person meeting. The findings of the online questionnaire closely mirror the points raised in the in-person discussion.
Participants were very clear that there is a strong, highly engaged network of stakeholders across the country who have a powerful foundation for action. At the same time, increased reporting and resource challenges have led to a large backlog for investigators; mental health and wellbeing among investigators continue to be compromised; there are significant challenges in timely law enforcement access to digital evidence; there is no comprehensive connection between people who have created prevention and awareness resources; there is little evidence-base to guide effective services for victims; and there are challenges to sustainable funding for service providers. Participants encouraged the federal government to explore opportunities to provide resources and support to integrate and connect work that is already happening, within the realms of law enforcement and prosecution, the technology sector and victim services.
Stakeholders distinguished between technologically-enabled sexual exploitation and abuse of children, and consensual peer-to-peer sharing of images among adolescents, which is not inherently exploitative but does pose the risk is of subsequent non-consensual and exploitative sharing of these images. The group noted the need for policy and resourcing for both raising awareness of the risks of consensual sharing and dealing with subsequent exploitation once sexual images are posted online.
A five year vision was outlined during the in-person consultation focusing on greater openness and sharing of resources about the topic, with supportive legislation and sustainable resources for front-line enforcement and prevention, and a nationally guided, integrated approach to awareness and victim support. Desired changes include:
- Raising awareness of online CSE among the general public, and strengthening tailored education for children and youth;
- Conducting research to build the evidence base for better meeting the unique needs of victims of online CSE;
- Investing resources to better serve victims, support law enforcement investigations and prosecution;
- Increasing collaboration between all stakeholders to raise awareness, share information, collect and share data and best practices to build on the work already being done;
- Strengthening legislation to clarify roles and responsibilities, and to support timely and effective investigation;
- Building stronger collaboration with the technology sector to increase child safety and increase compliance; and
- Identifying and communicating clear pathways for all types of bystanders, and for victims, to take action.
Specifically, the group indicated the desire to be more fully connected as a community in an ongoing way, with three potential signature innovations:
- Creating a pan-Canadian Coalition of non-government organizations (NGOs) and key government departments to share knowledge, build evidence, create best practices and provide a single unified ongoing voice to government;
- Exploring the possibility of the creation of a federal e-safety commissioner to provide a coordinated approach to promoting online safety of all Canadians, and;
- Creating a Technology Coalition that supports the co-creation of tech-driven innovations and creation of standardized best practices for safe online services by communications service providers.
Fourteen additional priorities were identified and have been organized by theme: Knowledge, Victim Services and Prevention; Legislation and Law Enforcement; and Technology, as follows:
- Knowledge, Victim Services and Prevention
- Sustainability of resources: Reduce the siloes around funding and frameworks and create better linkages across the many people doing this work to create consistency and embed best practices.
- Strengthen Child Protection Services.
- Comprehensive Awareness: Create a shared, interconnected approach to prevention and awareness efforts across the country.
- Focused Research: Build and share new knowledge and evidence that supports prevention, identification, prioritization and victim support.
- Engage youth and survivor voices in developing prevention and awareness strategies.
- Strengthen mental health and wellness resources for people on the front lines of this work.
- Strengthen prevention for individuals at risk of offending.
- Legislation and Law Enforcement
- Develop legislative, policy and practice options to improve reporting and enable the timely sharing of Basic Subscriber Information with law enforcement.
- Strengthen legislation to enable information sharing among Canadian and transnational law enforcement agencies.
- Build capacity for front line investigations.
- Strengthen legislation to limit travel of child sex offenders.
- Strengthen resources for centralized investigation of transnational child sex offenders.
- Strengthen knowledge of Crown Prosecutors and the Judiciary on the scope and impact of child sexual exploitation, and promote the development of technical subject matter expertise related to case law interpretation, accessing digital evidence and other relevant matters.
- Fully engage technology service providers in developing and enforcing standardized policies and practices for online safety and the detection and removal of abusive images.
While the focus was on potential solutions, stakeholders also painted a strong portrait of the intense vulnerability of the children involved in child exploitation, and the increasing incidence of online child sexual exploitation in Canada and internationally. Moreover, stakeholders reinforced that there are multiple networks that can be mobilized for more concerted action, including: the network of child and youth advocacy centres, where providers are already linked together; the energy and openness of the engaged communication service providers, who want to demonstrate and put pressure on the full spectrum of providers to provide trusted and safe online experiences; the many NGOs which have created and want to share prevention, awareness and service resources; and the law enforcement agencies which note the significant potential for more effective and timely investigation; and researchers who want to provide better evidence.
In conclusion, stakeholders communicated, both in-person and through the online questionnaire, that a modernized National Strategy has the potential to transform the current landscape on online child sexual exploitation, particularly if it includes measures to: increase coordination and collaboration; address legislative gaps; provide resources and funding that link and sustain existing efforts; and leverage opportunities to build on existing work and expertise across the country.
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Serious and Organized Crime Division
Public Safety Canada
269 Laurier Ave West
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