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Internet Child Exploitation unit arrests over 2 dozen Albertans for online child sexual exploitation offences

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From the ALERT’s Internet Child Exploitation Unit

26 Albertans Charged in Online Child Sexual Exploitation Investigations

ALERT’s Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit has arrested 26 suspects from across Alberta for offences related to online child sexual exploitation.

Between June 20 and September 17, 2020, ICE has charged 26 suspects with 63 offences. Most of the arrests came as the result of investigative referrals from the RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Crime Centre, which works with internet and social media providers to track and investigate online instances of child sexual exploitation.

“In Alberta, those who participate in the exploitation of children will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The Government of Alberta will ensure our law enforcement has the tools and resources to track down child predators and bring them to justice,” said Kaycee Madu, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General. “On behalf of all law-abiding Albertans, I thank ALERT and the law enforcement organizations across the province that worked tirelessly to arrest and charge these criminals. Alberta’s justice system is here for all Albertans, especially for children victimized by sexual predators.”

“The internet isn’t anonymous and these arrests demonstrate ALERT’s willingness to travel to all corners of the province to make arrests, put predators behind bars, and keep kids safe,” said Supt. Dwayne Lakusta, ALERT Chief Executive Officer.

There is no definitive link between the suspects other than the nature of offences allegedly committed. Each of the suspects was charged with at least one child pornography offence:

  • a 16-year-old young offender from Sherwood Park;
  • Kevin Borchert, a 29-year-old man from Sherwood Park;
  • David Cadieux, a 27-year-old man from Calgary;
  • Joseph Cadrain, a 32-year-old man from Strathmore;
  • Gary Campbell, a 28-year-old man from Lamont;
  • Michael Ciesla, a 32-year-old man from Edmonton;
  • Michael Courtepatte, a 44-year-old man from Athabasca;
  • Victor Delage, a 29-year-old man from Wainright;
  • Gerald Donel, a 57-year-old man from Edmonton;
  • Brian Farris, a 40-year-old man from Grande Prairie;
  • Humberto Ferreyra, a 51-year-old man from Lake Louise;
  • Coby Franz, a 42-year-old man from Alder Flats;
  • Sean Giles, a 41-year-old man from Lethbridge;
  • Brock Hann, a 21-year-old man from Morinville;
  • Richard Lepchuk, a 59-year-old man from Edmonton;
  • Christian Meier, a 52-year-old man from Calgary;
  • Troy Melnyk, a 49-year-old man from Spruce Grove;
  • Stephen Miehe, a 28-year-old man from Cardston;
  • Alasdair Mills, a 61-year-old man from Edmonton;
  • David Peeke, a 45-year-old man from Edmonton;
  • Christopher Piers-Hanley, a 31-year-old man from Edmonton;
  • Kalon Specht, a 30-year-old man from Edmonton;
  • Andrew Stredick, a 30-year-old man from Calgary;
  • Charles Tadashore, a 43-year-old man from Calgary;
  • Laurence Thrasher, a 40-year-old man from Edmonton; and
  • Michael Vandermay, a 52-year-old man from Calgary.

During the investigations and subsequent arrests, ICE worked in collaboration with a number of police agencies, including: Caribou Child and Youth Centre; Calgary Police Service; Edmonton Police Service; and various RCMP detachments, including Grande Prairie, Spruce Grove, Strathcona County, Wainright, Breton, Strathmore, Olds, Morinville, Cardston, Lake Louise, Fort Saskatchewan, and Athabasca.

ICE is an integrated team that includes members of Calgary Police Service, Edmonton Police Service, Lethbridge Police Service, Medicine Hat Police Service, and RCMP. ICE investigates offences involving child pornography, any computer-related child sexual abuse, child luring over the Internet, voyeurism involving victims under the age of 18, and child sex trade/tourism.

ICE speculates that the rise in the number of investigative referrals is likely in part related to digital dependency during COVID-19 isolation measures.

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection has information on its site dedicated to supporting families during the COVID-19 crisis, including resources for families and caregivers; schools and educators; and child-serving organizations. This information is available at: https://protectchildren.ca/en/resources-research/supporting-you-through-covid-19/

ALERT was established and is funded by the Alberta Government and is a compilation of the province’s most sophisticated law enforcement resources committed to tackling serious and organized crime.

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Alberta

Battle of Alberta hockey allegiances split in Red Deer

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The old Crown and Anchor bar in Red Deer, Alta., was famous for its line drawn down the middle when hosting hockey fans during the fierce Battle of Alberta playoff games of the late-1980s.

Calgary Flames fans sat on one side. Edmonton Oilers fans were relegated to the other.

NHL allegiances are split in the city of just over 100,000 people that sits within a kilometre of the exact halfway point of the 300-kilometre drive along Hwy. 2 between Calgary and Edmonton.

The Flames host the Oilers in Game 1 to kick off the second round of the NHL playoffs on Wednesday, in a Battle of Alberta of proportions not seen in decades.

“To see both fan bases totally engaged in playoffs is something that has just never happened in a lot of people’s life times who are under the age of 40,” said Merrick Sutter, senior vice-president of the Red Deer Rebels, and nephew of Flames coach Darryl Sutter. “We see it every day in Red Deer, just the sheer nature of being exactly in the middle.”

While it marks the sixth time the two teams have battled in the NHL post-season, it’s the first time in 31 years. The Oilers own a 4-1 series record.

The Rebels tweeted, tongue in cheek, on Monday: “Pray for Red Deer.”

Red Deer actually wins, no matter which team emerges victorious, said Mayor Ken Johnston.

“Really, every city from Fort McMurray in the north to Lethbridge in the south is going to benefit from the series, the bars, the restaurants, the hospitality industry, the ability for people to come together and socialize … and it couldn’t come at a better time from that perspective. People are just so eager to get out and be in person.

“But certainly Red Deer will benefit. Every other town and city (in Alberta) is going to have a piece of this series.”

The Mayor’s allegiances, he wasn’t afraid to admit, are with the Flames. He worked in Calgary during the team’s heyday of the late ’80s, when they made the Stanley Cup final in ’86 and won it all in ’89.

He has a Calgary jersey and a hat signed by Flames legend Lanny McDonald.

“Being a good mayor, I also have a little Oilers fanfare to wear from time to time,” he added with a laugh.

Sutter said allegiances in the Battle of Alberta have generational roots. His, of course, were forged in his family’s long history with the Flames. His dad Brent, now owner, president and GM of the Rebels, coached the Flames for three seasons, and uncle Darryl’s first coaching stint in Calgary was in 2003.

“Not many can understand, but there’s not very many circumstances where you have two franchises with such a longstanding rivalry,” he said. “This goes back to grandparents and parents, back in the ’80s and whatnot. It’s embedded. Now, to be able to reignite it is special, but to me it’s really about the younger people who have never seen that rivalry.”

Troy Gillard, who does play-by-play of Rebels games, said Red Deer has unique connections to both teams — although he noted he wore a Flames polo to the office on Monday. There’s the Rebels’ ties to the Sutter family. But he believes the Oilers saw a surge of new fans when the club drafted Rebels centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall in 2011. He was the first Rebel to go No. 1 in the draft.

The Oilers also have defenceman Kris Russell, who’s from nearby Caroline, Alta., and had Red Deer native Colton Sceviour before waiving him in late-January.

“Even here at the Rebels, we’re split pretty much 50/50. It’s gonna be a lot of fun around here the next couple weeks,” Gillard said.

These playoffs are the first held in full arenas in Canada since the COVID-19 began. Red Deer was slammed by the Omicron variant this past winter that saw the world junior championships there cancelled four days after it started.

“That Game 7 in overtime was as close to a return to normalcy as you’re going to find,” said Sutter, who was in Calgary on Sunday night for the Flames’ 3-2 OT thriller over Dallas.

“To see the crowd at Rogers Arena (in Edmonton) in Game 7 two nights ago, that game ended with a late goal and a burst of energy, and then to match that and then probably even beat it (Sunday) night in Game 7, overtime (in Calgary) — game sevens with premium endings in their own arenas … you couldn’t script it any better than that.”

Red Deer bars are buzzing with anticipation after a couple of years of hard times amid the pandemic.

“We’re all very very excited, it’s been a long time to have this kind of thing happen,” said Brennen Wowk, owner of 400-seat Bo’s Bar & Stage. “Staff will be in jerseys of their choice, (he’ll be in his No. 99 Wayne Gretzky Oilers jersey), we’ll be pouring lots of beer, and have the volume on as loud as it can go. As much excitement we can put into this room, we’re going to put into this room.”

Dallas Gaume hopes Alberta’s teams in the post-season will see hockey registration numbers in Red Deer return to pre-pandemic numbers.

“A lot of eyes are going to be on the province in the next two weeks, and I really think we’re going to get some growth out of this,” said Gaume, the GM of the Red Deer Minor Hockey Association.

There was no season in 2020-21 due to COVID-19, and then number of returning players dropped by 7.5 per cent this past winter. Gaume believes it’s a combination of issues, such as players needing to be vaccinated to enter arenas and players finding other winter activities during the lockdown.

Like the city of Red Deer, Gaume’s allegiances are split. He coached Nugent-Hopkins with the Rebels, “so I’m a big fan of his. And I’m a big fan of the Sutters, I think Darryl is a terrific coach. So I like both teams.”

There’s no love lost between the two squads, he said, and said Canada vs. the U.S. in women’s hockey would be an adequate comparison.

“I know that’s an extremely strong rivalry, with lots of dislike for one another,” Gaume said. “I think the same could be said with these two teams. I know with a lot of people, if you like the Oilers, you generally hate the Flames and the same the other way. You can’t like both.”

If he had to pick a winner?

“I think the Flames are the better team. Doesn’t necessarily mean they win the series. How’s that for my sitting-on-the-fence prediction?” he said with a laugh.

Game 2 is Friday in Calgary before the series heads north to Edmonton for Games 3 and 4. The series winner meets either St. Louis or Colorado in the Western Conference Final.

“One of the Alberta teams is going to be playing for a spot in the Stanley Cup Final,” Gillard marvelled. “It’s going to be heartbreaking for whichever team loses in Round 2, but for whichever team moves on, how exciting is that?”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2022.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Canada-wide warrant issued after Calgary mother of five killed in crash

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Calgary police say they have issued Canada-wide warrants for a man they believe is responsible for the death of a mother of young children after a shooting led to a crash.

Angela McKenzie, who was 40, was killed last week when a truck that was pursuing a sedan collided with her van and another car at an intersection in the city’s southeast.

Police say they have reviewed video surveillance cameras from the scene, talked to witnesses and processed the evidence collected.

They have issued seven Canada-wide warrants for 29-year-old Talal Amer.

McKenzie’s church pastor said last week that the woman was a mother of five children between the ages of nine and 17, and that the children lost their father to an illness in February.

The warrants for Amer include attempted murder, manslaughter, reckless discharge of a firearm and possession of a prohibited firearm.

“Based on the initial context from the scene, investigators believed that this incident may have been road-rage related,” police said in a news release Monday afternoon.

“However, after identifying the individuals involved and examining all evidence, we believe the shooting was targeted and that the driver of the (sedan) was the intended target. Occupants of the (sedan) did not exchange gunfire as previously thought.”

Amer is described as five-feet, 11-inches tall with brown eyes and brown hair.

Police allege Amer was the aggressor in pursuing the sedan and discharging a firearm before hitting McKenzie’s van.

“Our investigators have worked day and night to identify the person responsible for the tragic death of Ms. McKenzie,” said Staff Sgt. Sean Gregson of the homicide unit.

“This incident was a careless and senseless display of violence in our community.”

McKenzie’s mother, Sylvia McKenzie, issued a statement through police earlier Monday.

“Nobody expects to lose someone they love in an act so shocking it has people across Canada talking about it,”  she says in the statement.

“Angela was our beacon of light, a feisty defender of her family and children, and the most generous person we have ever known. She saw joy and hope where others only found struggle.

“In our struggle to accept her death, Canadians, and especially Calgarians, have shown … a grace and generosity that matches that of our beloved daughter, sister, and mother. We see the beautiful soul of our community blossoming from this ugly act, and we get to experience the dignity of the world the way Angela always experienced it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2022.

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