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Alberta

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

Vaccines, oil prices and Husky takeover boost Cenovus outlook, says CEO Alex Pourbaix

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CALGARY — The CEO of Cenovus Energy Inc. says he’s optimistic that his oil and gas company’s second consecutive online annual shareholders meeting webcast on Wednesday will be its last.

Alex Pourbaix says the global rollout of vaccines to counteract the COVID-19 pandemic gives him hope that next year’s meeting will be held in person, with the possible addition of a simultaneous webcast for out-of-town investors.

In their first shareholders’ meeting since Cenovus bought Husky Energy Inc., former Husky directors Canning Fok, Wayne Shaw, Frank Sixt and Eva Kwok were elected to Cenovus’s 12-member board. They had been appointed earlier under terms of the acquisition.

In January 2020, Cenovus committed $50 million over five years to build up to 200 houses to help alleviate a severe housing shortage in six First Nation and Metis communities near its oilsands operations in northern Alberta.

In an update on Wednesday, Pourbaix said the program resulted in 12 new houses completed in 2020 and 38 more expected to be ready by the end of this year. 

He said shareholders have much to celebrate, with Cenovus on the way to cutting net debt to $10 billion by year-end thanks to higher oil prices, along with the reinstatement of a dividend and a 96 per cent recovery in the share price between the October Husky acquisition announcement and the end of April.

“I think we can all agree that this past year has been one of unprecedented challenges for the world, for our industry and for Cenovus, and, yet, today I’m more optimistic about the future of the company than I have ever been,” he said.

“Cenovus is a stronger, more resilient, integrated Canadian energy leader thanks to our combination with Husky Energy.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:CVE)

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Man linked to B.C. and Alberta charged after woman's body found in national park

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LAKE COUNTRY, B.C. — A charge of second-degree murder has been laid against a 41-year-old man following the recent discovery of a woman’s body in Kootenay National Park in southeastern B.C.

A statement from RCMP says Philip Toner was arrested Tuesday in the Okanagan and will be returned to Alberta to face the murder charge.

The body of 35-year-old Brenda Ware was found last Thursday near her vehicle along a B.C. highway through the park, but investigators say they believe the alleged killing happened in Alberta.

Police say Toner and Ware were known to each other, but the nature of their relationship has not been described.

The statement says the “complex, interprovincial investigation” is still very active and police want to speak to anyone who may have had contact with Toner between May 4 and May 11 in either Alberta or B.C.

Drivers who might have picked up a hitchhiker travelling between B.C.’s Columbia Valley and the central Okanagan district of Lake Country on those dates are also asked to contact RCMP major crime detectives.

Toner appeared in provincial court in Kelowna Wednesday and police say the BC Prosecution Service received a seven-day remand in order to return him to Alberta.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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