Tag Archives: Ontario

Hundreds Arrested in International Child Porn Case

348 people arrested and 386 children rescued

Toronto police announcing an international child pornography bust said Thursday that 348 people have been arrested and 386 children rescued from situations around the world where they were at risk.

Toronto police announcing an international child pornography bust said Thursday that 348 people have been arrested and 386 children rescued from situations around the world where they were at risk.

Police say a sweeping child pornography investigation that began with a Toronto man has led to at least 386 victims being rescued.

Toronto police say 348 people have been arrested around the world as part of Project Spade, which they described as one of the largest child porn busts they’ve ever achieved.

Hundreds of thousand of the images, filling 45 terabytes or a stack of paper reaching as tall as 1,500 CN Towers,  found featured “horrific acts of sexual abuse — some of the worst (officers) have seen,” said Inspector Joanna Beaven-Desjardins, who heads the Toronto police’s sex crimes unit.

They say 50 of those arrested are from Ontario and 58 are from other parts of Canada.

Police say school teachers, doctors and actors were among those arrested.

The Toronto man at the heart of the investigation was allegedly running a company since 2005 that distributed child pornography videos.

Police allege the man instructed people around the world to create the videos of children ranging from five to 12 years of age, and then distributed the videos to international customers.

“We’ve worked a lot of big cases. This is by far the biggest,” said one source.

‪The company, Toronto-based Azov Films, sold mail-order DVDs and streamed online videos of naked boys from Germany, Romania and Ukraine, which it marketed as naturist movies and claimed were legal in Canada and the United States.

‪According to police in Spain, where 38 suspects were arrested last year, the Canadian firm earned $1.6-million annually from sales in 94 countries.

‪The head of the company, 41-year-old Toronto resident Brian Way, has been in custody since his May, 2011, arrest after an online undercover operation.

‪Records at the Finch Avenue courthouse in Toronto show that, in addition to indicting him with 23 child-pornography-related criminal counts, prosecutors took the unprecedented step of designating Azov Films as a criminal organization and charging Mr. Way with giving directions on behalf of a gang.

Originally enacted to fight criminal bikers, gangsterism offences bring stiffer penalties because they have to be served consecutively to other jail terms.

Inspector Joanna Beavan-Desjardins at news conference (14 Nov 2013)

Inspector Joanna Beavan-Desjardins said 108 arrests were made across Canada

‪Mr. Way’s mother, Sandra Waslov, who is believed to be in the U.S., was named as a co-conspirator, along with a German videographer, Markus Rudolph Roth.

‪About 100 people have been arrested in Canada, including 45 in Ontario and 45 in Quebec, police sources said.

‪According to U.S. court documents, the Azov investigation was prompted by about 20 complaints to Toronto police.

‪Some of the complaints came from other law-enforcement agencies, some from cyber-tipsters and even some from business rivals of Mr. Way, sources said.

‪Azov was not exactly a covert operation: It was incorporated, held trademarks and fought for them in very public legal battles that stretched over years.

‪Starting in 2004, David Eisenlohr, a California mail-order distributor selling what he calls European naturist videos, complained to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that Mr. Way was stealing his films and reselling them online at a cheaper price.

‪Mr. Eisenlohr then came to the attention of U.S. investigators in March, 2006, when photo-lab employees at a Wal-Mart in Virginia saw a man, David Tetterton, trying to print explicit photos from their self-serve kiosk. Evidence seized from Mr. Tetterton’s house led to Mr. Eisenlohr, who was indicted with trading child pornography.

‪Even as he faced criminal charges, Mr. Eisenlohr continued his campaign against his Canadian competitor. In 2007, he wrote a letter to then Canadian justice minister Rob Nicholson to complain about Mr. Way “stealing my intellectual property using the internet” and ask whether there were laws in Canada to stop him.

‪“It’s crazy, guys arguing over what we consider child-exploitation material,” one police detective said about the feud.

‪In court, Mr. Eisenlohr successfully argued that his nude videos were not pornographic and he was acquitted in 2009.

‪The following year in Romania, a German man arrived in the Transylvanian city of Zalau and began offering martial-arts classes to local boys.

‪The man was Mr. Roth and he was arrested in August, 2010, and sentenced to three years of prison for taking more than 100 pornographic films of children. Authorities said the films were sold to Canada at $1,000 a piece.

Two months after Mr. Roth’s arrest, Toronto police and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service began their Azov investigation, accessing the company website and making undercover purchases.

Toronto police infographic on Project Spade

Toronto police say over 50 countries were involved in the inquiry

‪They found that orders to the U.S. transited through a warehouse near Buffalo before being shipped by USPS Priority mail.

‪Toronto police executed a search warrant at Azov’s Etobicoke offices on May 1, 2011, and seized hundreds of DVDs, computers, business records, shipping labels and customer order histories, according to U.S. court documents.

‪Police sources estimate about 100 children were rescued as a result of the investigation.

‪Sources say the investigation identified 10 to 15 children in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, who modelled for photographers connected with Azov.

‪In addition, the sources said, as Azov clients were identified around the world, police uncovered more children who were victims of those customers, who were either “hands-on abusers” or who secretly videotaped them.

‪In one case, the Azov probe led to the arrest of Richard Keller, a pediatric endocrinologist in Andover, Mass.

‪A search at Dr. Keller’s house uncovered videos that appeared to have been shot at the Cap d’Agde nudist colony in southern France. The camera operator’s forearm and wristwatch are seen at one point. Investigators then executed a second search warrant to see whether they could find a matching wristwatch.

‪Several of the American defendants contend the videos they bought aren’t pornographic at all, but just legal videos of naked boys, using the same argument that led to Mr. Eisenlohr’s acquittal. U.S. courts so far have sided with the prosecution and a number of defendants have already been found guilty.

‪In Canada, the Criminal Code’s definition of child pornography includes images where a minor’s genitals are depicted for a sexual purpose.

‪Canadian police say they’ve obtained legal opinions from prosecutors that the material sold by Azov qualified as child pornography.

“What did they think they were buying?” one officer said about customers who argued they bought legal naturist films.


Forced marriages rampant in Ontario


Hundreds of women forced into arranged marriages in Ontario: Study

Sandeep Chand experienced the turmoil of being forced into an unwanted marriage in 2006. She says forced marriage is a global problem, and one more common than most people think.

By Debra Black

A groundbreaking three-year study of forced marriage in Ontario has found more than 200 women who were wed against their will, a practice the report’s authors say highlights serious gaps in services.

The first-of-its-kind report, being released at a Toronto news conference Friday, was conducted by the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, which questioned 30 social service agencies about the practice.

It found 219 reported cases between 2010 and 2012, with 97 per cent of the victims being women. The survey found the majority of victims, 81 per cent, were between 16 and 34 years old.

The report found that parents, siblings, extended family, grandparents and religious leaders were all involved in pushing individuals into forced marriage. The reasons were mostly cultural (66 per cent), but honour, money and immigration purposes were also behind some forced marriages.

Haya, a woman now living in Mississauga who asked that her last name not be used, was forced to flee when her father decided to marry her off to a cousin. Sixteen at the time, she and her family were deported from Canada to Pakistan four years ago. It was there, she said, that her father announced the arranged marriage.

She was held “prisoner” in her grandmother’s house. Her father confiscated her Pakistani passport. Eventually she escaped from Karachi to Islamabad, where she was able to contact Canadian officials, who gave her a temporary visa to return to Canada.

Now 20, she has applied for permanent resident status. She says she’s “grateful” to the Canadian officials who helped her. “I didn’t have any status in Canada. Technically, they didn’t have to help me. I was a Pakistani citizen.”

According to the report, however, most victims were Canadian citizens (44 percent) or permanent residents (41 per cent). Four per cent of cases involved people who did not have legal status in Canada; 7 per cent were refugee claimants, foreign residents or individuals with a visitor or temporary work visa.

The survey found that many victims forced into marriage experienced some form of violence, including threats (68 per cent), physical violence (59 per cent), sexual violence (26 per cent) and stalking (20 per cent).

“The results we got back show that this is an issue across a number of communities in Ontario,” says Shalini Konanur, executive director and lawyer at the South Asian Legal Clinic.

“People need to realize that victims of forced marriages are probably some of the most marginalized clients we deal with,” she said. “They have very little income, very little power and ability to remedy or intervene on their own.”

The largest number of forced marriages was within the Muslim community with 103 victims from more than 30 countries of origin, including Afghanistan, Palestine, Senegal, Swaziland, Turkey and the United Kingdom, as well as Canada. Forty-four were Hindu, 30 were Sikh and 12 Christian.

“It’s the tip of the iceberg, because so many cases go unreported,” said Sandeep Chand, an outspoken advocate for spreading awareness about forced marriage. A resident of Victoria, B.C., she was forcibly married in 2006.

“It’s prevalent everywhere,” she said. “It’s not just a South Asian issue. “It’s a global issue; it’s a human rights issue.”

Forced marriage has become a large problem in the United Kingdom. The government has a unit devoted to dealing with forced marriages, which fielded 400 cases between June and August last year, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper last month. The article cited a charity group that is advising young women at risk of being spirited abroad for forced marriage to conceal a spoon in their underwear, to set off scanners at airport security and give them a chance to safely tell authorities.

Konanur, of the South Asian clinic, defines forced marriage as “essentially where one or both of the participants are entering into the marriage without consent.”

Canada has taken a leadership role at the United Nations opposing child and forced marriage, says Konanur. But she wants the government to be as forceful domestically.

Canada has no legislation specific to forced marriage, the report states.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs is doing quite an amazing job with helping Canadians to come back to Canada, but the problem is (there is) no consistency on how they approach these cases from country to country.”

She would like to see a uniform policy to help government officials understand forced marriage and intervene abroad in the same way, regardless of the country the victim is in.

The report also calls for better training for teachers, guidance counsellors, health professionals and police, and for including forced marriage in the definition of “family violence” when an applicant seeks priority in getting subsidized housing.

It also calls for better protection for persons without legal resident status.

The authors say regulations about spousal sponsorship, which makes attaining permanent residency conditional on living with the spouse, should be changed to allow an exemption for forced marriage, alongside the existing exemption for domestic violence.

Among other findings, the survey found 64 percent of the Canadian citizens forced into marriage had been living here longer than 10 years; 22 per cent had been here between seven and 10 years.

“One day I hope that people will understand more about forced marriage and how common it is,” Chand said, “because it happens in everyone’s backyard. We just don’t recognize the signs.”



Native American Women Being Sold on US Ships

Apparently the women are sold for “parties” on American ships. Picture via WikiCommons

An American researcher says First Nations women from Thunder Bay, Ont., have been sold on ships in the harbour at Duluth, Minn.

Christine Stark said the port at Duluth is notorious among First Nations people as a site for trafficking women.

The masters student at the University of Minnesota Duluth said she has anecdotal reports of women, teenage girls and boys, as well as babies being sold on ships for sex.

“The women and children — and I’ve even had women talk about a couple of babies brought onto the ships and sold to the men on ships — are being sold or are exchanging sex for alcohol, a place to stay, drugs, money and so forth.,” Stark said. “It’s quite shocking.”

Stark said the sex trade on ships has been going on for generations, and includes Indigenous women from Canada.

Strong link between Thunder Bay, Duluth

“I have spoken with a woman who was brought down from Thunder Bay on the ships and talks about an excessive amount of trafficking between Canada and the Duluth-Superior harbor,” Stark said. “There is a very strong link between Thunder Bay and Duluth.”

Her current research is an offshoot of a 2007 report on prostitution in Minnesota, in conjunction with the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition. That report included interviews with 105 indigenous women in Minnesota who have been trafficked in the sex trade.

Stark said the stories that “women get brought out onto the boats and never come back” that she heard as part of that study begged further exploration. She’s currently conducting interviews with 15 people to learn more about what happens on the ships.

The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) said it also has anecdotal reports of women being trafficked across borders,or provincial boundaries, into the sex trade.

“We know that it’s happening between Winnipeg and Thunder Bay, and there have been reports of it happening in southern Ontario across the U.S. border,” said Kezia Picard, the director of policy and research with ONWA.

Meet Christine Stark, an author, speaker, and survivor of child sexual abuse.

Meet Christine Stark, an author, speaker, and survivor of child sexual abuse.

Poverty, lack of housing make women vulnerable

But Picard said more funding is needed for more formal research into how women are being spirited away.

“Another thing we’re really trying to advocate for is additional research to understand what’s happening and what sort of programs help women in this sort of situation to prevent it from happening,” Picard said.

However, Picard said some of the reasons First Nations women are vulnerable to sex trafficking are all too familiar in indigenous communities.

“The reason that indigenous women and girls are sometimes trafficked has to do with all of these ongoing issues like poverty,” she said. “Another one of the large risk factors for indigenous women and girls is the lack of housing … women will sometimes engage in survival sex, not of their choice, in order to have somewhere to live.”

Picard said the ONWA hopes to work with organizations in Minnesota and Manitoba to learn more about the cross-border sex trade, and explore ways of keeping indigenous women and their children safe.