Two years ago, Dallas police officers, U.S. postal authorities, and the Justice Department announced the arrests of 100 people in a global Internet child pornography ring. More than 250,000 people from 60 countries were paid subscribers, netting organizers more than $1 million a month. The bust has led to the arrests of hundreds of suspects around the world.

But comparatively few arrests have been made in Canada, even though police have the names of over two thousand suspects. Many understaffed police units have not followed up on the names and credit card numbers of the 2,300 Canadians who downloaded images advertised as child porn. Child porn generates $3 billion annually in online sales, according to a report by Internet Filters Review.

Robert Matthews of Ontario's police unit investigating child porn told the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, "Canadians produce as much or more child pornography, per capita, as any other developed country."

The EFC has expounded on the problem in a background paper, "Innocence Preserved."

Project Snowball

Many Christian groups are calling for action. But they are finding inertia hard to overcome. Many Canadians consider graphic sexual content involving minors as a matter of free expression. Few police divisions across Canada have assigned officers or funds to the investigation, dubbed Project Snowball.

Toronto's police force is one of the few that have responded. Six Toronto officers have made 21 arrests in Project Snowball so far. They have also seized two million images.

"There are many divisions that have not even opened their files on this case because they lack the manpower or funds to proceed," said detective sergeant Paul Gillespie of Toronto's sex crimes unit.

All officers involved in Project Snowball are required to visit psychologists every three months for debriefing and counseling. Lutheran police chaplain Paul Lainen, who works in the College Street Chapel inside Toronto police headquarters, said both Christian and non-Christian officers vent their frustrations about limited funds and staffs.

"Churches need to speak up and write letters—not on the evil of child pornography, but on what they believe politicians and legislators can do about it," Lainen told Christianity Today.

Toronto police are seeking more federal funds and a national strategy to coordinate their efforts. Some collections seized during raids contain 500,000 images, all of which must be documented.

Police also say sentences are too light. Two men convicted of possessing, producing, and distributing child pornography in Project Snowball raids each received six-month conditional sentences and eighteen months of probation.

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Christian organizations such as the EFC, real Women, Focus on the Family, and Crossroads Christian Communications are lobbying the federal government. The federal justice department announced this spring it would help police develop a national strategy, but it has not provided details.

Closing loopholes

Advocates want to close what they say are loopholes in Canada's Criminal Code. Some graphic images and fictional stories about children deemed to have "artistic merit" are legal, according to a 2001 Supreme Court of Canada decision regarding the work of Vancouver author John Robin Sharpe. In March 2002, the provincial court ruled that Sharpe was not guilty of possessing written child pornography. The court did find him guilty on two counts of possessing pornographic pictures of children. It sentenced him to four months of house arrest, but no prison time.

Said Darrel Reid, president of the Canadian branch of Focus on the Family, "Who could have imagined, even a generation ago, that anyone would question who was more deserving of protection—child pornographers or innocent children?"

Last October, Focus presented the House of Commons a petition with 65,000 signatures demanding that legislators strike the artistic merit defense.

A federal standing committee may toughen the Criminal Code's child porn laws. Bill C-20 would introduce prison sentences of two to ten years for those convicted of "child exploitation offenses."

Elsie Wayne, a Christian and a Conservative Member of Parliament, told CT the proposed legislation still "leaves children vulnerable to sexual predators." Wayne appeared on the popular Christian television program 100 Huntley Street in January and initiated a letter-writing campaign.

She told CT that prosecutors should focus on the content of seized material rather than its intent. In January she appealed to the House of Commons to amend the bill. So far, the house has neither added amendments nor scheduled a vote.

Toronto police came to Ottawa earlier this year to show lawmakers some of the images they had uncovered in their investigation.

"I had to turn away from some of the pictures, they were so horrendous," Wayne said. "There is no question: The images were abusive, not artistic. I saw violent and abusive acts that destroy children's development and violate their rights."

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Related Elsewhere

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has posted its background paper, "Innocence Preserved," online.

The Toronto Police Department website has more information on the work of its Sex Crimes Unit.

Previous Christianity Today articles on porn include:

Tangled in the Worst of the Web | What Internet porn did to one pastor, his wife, his ministry, their life. (Feb. 23, 2001)
Resources for the Ensnared | Christ-centered help for those struggling with Internet pornography and sexual addiction. (Feb. 23, 2001)
We've Got Porn | Online smut is taking its toll on Christians. What is the church doing about it? (July 5, 2000)
Internet Pornography Use Common in many Libraries, Report Says | Librarian-researcher claims American Library Association thwarted study. (March 20 , 2000)
Christian Singer Shares Struggles with Pornography | Secret sin of Clay Crosse's youth reappears in midst of ministry (Feb. 7, 2000) Pulls Book Targeted as 'Kiddie Porn' | But critics say other pedophilia books are still offered. (Jan. 24 , 2000)
Smut Magazine Publishers Convert | (April 26, 1999)
Curbing Smut Legally | Tough ordinances shut down porn outlets. (Feb. 8, 1999)
Christian Leaders Target Cyberporn | (Jan. 6, 1997

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