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Alberta’s Internet Child Exploitation Unit working on record number of cases

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Article submitted by the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team

ICE responds to surge in record number of case files

ALERT’s Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit has begun the new year with a number of arrests across Alberta. Twenty-four suspects have been charged with 60 offences related to the online sexual exploitation of children.

After receiving a record number of case referrals in 2020, ICE has been collaborating with its policing partners across the province to make arrests. Last year, ICE experienced nearly a 40% increase in its number of case referrals with over 2,100 intakes.

  • 2020-21 – 2,136;
  • 2019-20 – 1,555;
  • 2018-19 – 1,237;
  • 2017-18 – 903;
  • 2016-17 – 894;
  • 2015-16 – 749.

“This is a concerning consequence of our digital dependency during the pandemic. ALERT has responded by directing more tools and resources to our ICE units and we are prepared to travel to every corner of the province in order to stop child sex predators,” said ALERT CEO Supt. Dwayne Lakusta.

“The sexual exploitation of children is a crime that tears at the fabric of society and preys on our most vulnerable. Increased provincial funding is enabling ALERT to double the size of its ICE unit, ensuring it has the tools and resources to track down predators who commit these heinous acts and bring them to justice,” said Hon. Kaycee Madu, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General.

With new provincial funding, ALERT has sought to double the size of the ICE unit with the addition of investigators, forensic technicians, analysts, and disclosure clerks, along with new technologies and software applications. With now more than 50 positions, Alberta’s ICE unit is one of the largest of its kind in Canada.

Between January 1 and March 31, 2021, ICE arrested 24 suspects. There is no definitive link between the suspects other than the nature of offences allegedly committed.

The arrests came as the result of investigative referrals from the RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre, which works with internet and social media providers to track and investigate online instances of child sexual exploitation.

Each of the suspects was charged with at least one child pornography offence:

  • Michael Antonio, 25-year-old man from Calgary;
  • Curt Backlund, 48-year-old man from Grande Prairie;
  • Brad Bailey, 19-year-old man from Marlboro;
  • Brett Beer, 54-year-old man from Onoway;
  • Eric Bultmann, 30-year-old man from Calgary;
  • Kevin Dykstra, 35-year-old man from Barrhead;
  • Brian Harrison, 35-year-old man from Calgary;
  • Jeremy Henderson, 42-year-old man from Okotoks;
  • Bryan Hillman, 39-year-old man from Calgary;
  • Christopher Hoffner, 34-year-old man from Medicine Hat;
  • James Kydd, 39-year-old man from Calgary;
  • Mica LePage, 44-year-old man from Edmonton;
  • Jordan MacDonald, 30-year-old man from Edmonton;
  • Cris Marshall, 29-year-old man from Stettler;
  • Stedson McDonald, 32-year-old man from Grande Prairie;
  • James Merrison, 21-year-old man from Edmonton;
  • Traline Munn, 44-year-old man from Cold Lake;
  • Krishnamoort Nalla Naidu, 38-year-old man from Edmonton;
  • Van Linh Nguyen, 24-year-old man from Edmonton;
  • Ivan Scott, 47-year-old man from Cochrane;
  • Jerry Lee Thompson, 47-year-old from Fort MacLeod;
  • Hunter Tonneson, 20-year-old man from Blackfalds;
  • Chase Viau, 23-year-old man from Edmonton; and
  • Richard Westland, 45-year-old man from Medicine Hat.

During the investigations, ICE relied upon the assistance of a number of partner agencies, including: Calgary Police, Edmonton Police, Lethbridge Police, Medicine Hat Police, and RCMP detachments in Barrhead, Beaverlodge, Blackfalds, Cochrane, Edson, Fort MacLeod, Grande Prairie, Onoway, Okotoks, Slave Lake, Stettler, and Wood Buffalo.

Anyone with information about these investigations, or any child exploitation offence is encouraged to contact local police or cybertip.ca.

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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Alberta

From maybe to no: Alberta cabinet ministers give range of answers on replacing Kenney

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By Dean Bennett in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

The race to replace Jason Kenney as United Conservative Party leader and Alberta premier has two entrants so far along with a number of cabinet ministers who, when asked if they plan to run, delivered answers ranging from maybe to a hard no.

Government house leader and Environment Minister Jason Nixon says he has not ruled out running for the top job but has more thinking to do and, for now, is focused on the spring sitting of the legislature.

“At the end of the day, internal politics are internal politics, but the people of Alberta expect us to come up here and get to work,” Nixon told reporters on his way into the house Tuesday.

“I haven’t ruled anything out (on a leadership bid),” he added. “I’ll be doing what I think is best for the party under the lens of making sure that we stay united and that we defeat the NDP in a year.”

Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney said she will consult with her family, constituents and Albertans before deciding.

“I haven’t made up my mind as of yet,” she said.

Finance Minister Travis Toews refused multiple times to say whether he would be running or not running, or whether he’s even considering it at all.

“This week we are focused on the people’s business,” said Toews.

Justice Minister Tyler Shandro said he will not run for the leadership but plans to run again for a seat in Calgary-Acadia in the 2023 provincial election.

“It’s never crossed my mind to run for the leader of any political party,” said Shandro. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a politician or MLA in the first place.”

Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said he won’t be in the running.

“I don’t have any plans for anything like that,” he said, adding he does plan to run in the election.

Health Minister Jason Copping also tossed cold water on a bid.

“I’m not considering running for the leadership at this time. I’m focused on delivering health care for Albertans,” he said.

Children’s Services Minster Rebecca Schulz said: “It’s too early to say.”

Labour Minister Kaycee Madu had two words: “No comment.”

On Monday, Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer announced he won’t run for the leadership and won’t run again for his seat in Calgary-Elbow.

Two candidates — Brian Jean and Danielle Smith — have said they will seek the leadership.

Jean and Schweitzer ran and lost to Kenney in the inaugural UCP leadership race in 2017. Jean has since returned to politics, winning a seat for the UCP earlier this year in a byelection on a platform to unseat Kenney as leader.

Smith is the former leader of the Wildrose Party, which merged under Jean with Kenney’s Progressive Conservatives in 2017 to form the UCP.

The UCP is still working on details of the leadership race and no rules or timeline have been presented yet.

Tuesday was the first day the house sat since Kenney said last week he will quit the top job once a new leader is chosen.

He made the announcement after receiving 51 per cent support in a leadership review vote by party rank and file. He said the result reflects a deep division in the party that won’t be fixed if he stays premier.

The Opposition NDP continued to hammer away at what it calls the “interim UCP” government. It said while the government focuses on its internal drama, Albertans are facing real challenges, including inflation, high gas and utility costs and long waiting lists for surgery.

“(There’s) all kinds of uncertainty in Alberta politics right now, but one constant (is) this premier’s self-importance,” NDP finance critic Shannon Phillips told Kenney as he sat across the aisle from her, signing documents and answering questions in the house.

“Anyway,” Phillips added, “enough about yesterday’s man.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2022.

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Alberta

Oilers outlast Flames to grab 3-1 series lead

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EDMONTON — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored his second goal of the night with 3:27 left in regulation as the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Calgary Flames 5-3 on Tuesday to take a 3-1 lead in the teams’ second-round playoff series.

Evander Kane, with his NHL-best 11th and 12th of the post-season, and Zach Hyman had the other goals for Edmonton, which got 29 saves from Mike Smith. Leon Draisaitl added two assists.

Connor McDavid also had two assists to give him a league-topping 25 points in 11 playoff outings this spring for the Oilers, who kept their foot on the gas with a third straight victory over their provincial rival.

Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund and Rasmus Andersson, on a short-handed goal from his own end in the third period to tie proceedings 3-3, replied for Calgary, which will look to stave off elimination in the first post-season Battle of Alberta in 31 years Thursday at home in Game 5.

Jacob Markstrom stopped 21 shots.

After trailing 3-0 after the first period and 3-2 through 40 minutes, Calgary improbably knotted things in the third on an Edmonton power play when Andersson fired a 150-foot clearing attempt from his own end that somehow fooled Smith at 10:56 and stunned Rogers Place.

But with the Oilers wobbling, Nugent-Hopkins shovelled home his fourth of the playoffs from Markstrom’s doorstep to send the nervous crowd into a frenzy.

Andersson then took a four-minute penalty for high-sticking with 2:40 left to effectively kill off the game before Kane iced it into an empty net.

Edmonton also held a 2-1 series lead in the first round against the Los Angeles Kings only to play what the Oilers described as their worst performance of the month in a 4-0 loss.

They won’t be thrilled with this Game 4 either, but got the victory for a stranglehold on the series.

Markstrom, who had allowed 14 goals in the series before getting pulled after two periods with Calgary trailing Sunday’s Game 3 by a 4-0 score line, played the puck behind his own net on the first shift, but put it right on Nugent-Hopkins’ stick for him to bury his third inside a deafening arena.

The goal was the third-fastest in Oilers’ playoff history, just short of McDavid (19 seconds in 2020) and Fernando Pisani (16 seconds in 2006).

One of three finalists for the Vézina Trophy as the NHL’s top netminder, Markstrom recovered to deny Darnell Nurse on a chance a couple minutes later before Smith was at full stretch on a Johnny Gaudreau one-time chance.

Calgary winger Tyler Toffoli then took a tripping penalty and the Oilers made the visitors pay when Hyman outmuscled a hobbled Chris Tanev — back in the lineup for the first time since Game 6 of the opening round despite a suspected upper-body injury — in tight to bury his fifth goal of the series and seventh of the playoffs at 9:53.

The Flames, who topped the Pacific Division in the regular season, pushed back with a couple of decent shifts, but Kane, who was coming off a natural hat trick in Game 3, made it 3-0 with 66 seconds remaining in the period on a shot that nicked off blue-liner Nikita Zadorov.

Calgary finally showed some life on slick power play in the second with Kane off for slashing, and Lindholm eventually picked the top corner for his fifth at 9:04 after the Oilers twice failed to clear the defensive zone.

Backlund got the Flames within one at 3-2 just 36 seconds later when he stepped past Duncan Keith and fired his fourth past Smith.

Smith made a good stop on a Lindholm power-play chance early in the third before the home side got its second man-advantage with 11 minutes left in regulation.

Markstrom kept his team within striking distance with a terrific pad stop on Draisaitl, who was looking to become the first player in NHL history to register record three-plus points in four straight playoff games, with a terrific pad stop before Andersson’s shocking equalizer from well inside his own blue line.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2022.

___

Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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