Amanda Todd sextortion case sets precedent, but more needs to be done, experts say
VANCOUVER — The conviction of Aydin Coban for the “sextortion” of British Columbia teenager Amanda Todd has prompted calls from lawyers and advocates for more regulation, resources and education in Canada to protect future victims.
Lianna McDonald, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, said Todd’s case served as a warning, but Canada “failed to act.”
“Looking back, essentially nothing has been done to be proactive and actually address the issues that put kids at risk every day: platforms that allow anonymous adults to interact with our children in unsupervised digital spaces, any time or anywhere,” she said in a statement.
Coban, a Dutch national, was convicted on Saturday of extortion, harassment, communication with a young person to commit a sexual offence and possession and distribution of child pornography in relation to Todd.
She was 15 when she died by suicide in 2012, after years of harassment from 22 social media accounts that Crown attorneys said were controlled by Coban.
His sentencing hearing will be held in B.C. Supreme Court in September.
The jury’s decision came days after Statistics Canada released data showing that police-reported extortion cases rose by nearly 300 per cent in the last decade. Police across the country have also been issuing warnings to the public about a drastic increase in sextortion scams targeting youth.
Monique St. Germain, general counsel with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, said the organization was “very pleased” with the Coban verdict.
But it is calling for more regulation of social media companies, like Snapchat and Instagram, where the organization has found most of the harm to children occurs.
“We need governments to step in, and to put some guardrails in place with the tech industry so that we have safer products in the marketplace,” she said in an interview.
“If we take our child to a playground and they play on a play structure, we have trust in the fact that the manufacturers of that play structure have had to abide by certain laws to make that structure safe for our children to play on. It shouldn’t be any different for the technology industry.”
Snapchat announced a new feature in Canada this week called Family Center that it says will “help parents get more insight into who their teens are friends with on Snapchat, and who they have been communicating with, without revealing any of the substance of those conversations.”
The Winnipeg-based Centre for Child Protection runs Cybertip, Canada’s tip line for reporting online child sexual abuse. It said it has received “an unprecedented volume of reports from youth and sometimes their concerned parents about falling prey to aggressive sextortion tactics,” amounting to about 300 online extortion cases a month.
“Parents cannot keep up. Police cannot keep up,” St. Germain said.
Todd’s mother, Carol Todd, has said the type of extortion her daughter suffered has become a global problem that needs to be better addressed by governments and law enforcement.
Her daughter’s suicide gained international attention in 2012. Amanda Todd had posted a video in which she used flash cards to describe being tormented by an anonymous harasser. It has been watched nearly 15 million times.
Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, was first introduced in 2013, following Todd’s death, and aimed to combat online harassment by making it illegal to distribute intimate images of a person without their consent. At the time, Carol Todd criticized the privacy-related provisions in the bill.
“It’s been 10 years since Bill C-13 was introduced. It needs to be revamped, and the word sextortion needs to be put in the Criminal Code somewhere,” Carol Todd said in an interview Friday, before Coban’s conviction. “That’s what we’ll learn from this.”
But David Fraser, an internet and privacy lawyer with the Canadian law firm McInnes Cooper in Halifax, said creating a new law specific to sextortion isn’t necessary, something made evident by Coban’s conviction.
He said generalized laws allow police to pursue charges more freely, because technological advancements far outpace law-making. He did, however, identify two benefits to proscribing sextortion explicitly: clarity for law enforcement and recognition for victims and the emotional harm they endured.
“Extortion that takes place online is still Criminal Code extortion,” he said. “It’s worth a conversation, but I did say shortly after the death of Amanda Todd that our laws were sufficient to take care of that. What failed her, it appears, was the legal system rather than the laws.”
Fraser said police have often failed to translate existing laws into an online context and he is calling for more resources and training for law enforcement.
“I believe that what was not in place at the time, unfortunately, when Amanda Todd was alive, was the will to investigate and prosecute the offence,” he said. “The fact that it worked here will hopefully foster and spur on perhaps a higher level of willingness to engage in and pursue investigations where the victim is in Canada, but the perpetrator is likely outside of the country.”
Coban was extradited to Canada in 2020 from the Netherlands, where he had been convicted of similar allegations to those in the Todd case. He was sentenced in Amsterdam in 2017 to almost 11 years in prison for cyberbullying dozens of young girls and gay men.
Darren Laur, chief training officer at White Hatter, an internet safety and digital literacy education company based in Victoria, said he wasn’t surprised by the verdict given the evidence, and is pleased that it has established precedent.
“It’s good to see that with this conviction, it does create case law specific to sextortion under existing extortion laws. The laws have been there. We’ve just been waiting for cases to go to court to create case law to support the Criminal Code,” Laur said.
“What a lot of people don’t understand is that the laws in the Criminal Code are drafted by government, but it’s up to the courts to interpret the law and that’s what case law is all about.”
Laur, who is a retired Victoria police sergeant, echoed Fraser’s calls for more police resources and for more public education and understanding of virtual crimes.
“Police in our country don’t have the time, resources or training to investigate these types of crimes,” he said. “We also need to continue to educate our age-appropriate kids in a scaffolded way about what this type of crime and other crimes are.”
The Department of Canadian Heritage said in a statement the federal government is working to create an approach to address harmful content online, including the possibility of a regulatory body.
“Canadians should be able to express themselves freely and openly without fear of harm online,” it said in the statement. “The Government of Canada is committed to taking the time to get this issue right and continuing to engage Canadians, stakeholders, and affected groups every step of the way on the road to tabling legislation as soon as possible.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2022.
Brieanna Charlebois, The Canadian Press
Biden in Canada: Replay coverage of the U.S. president's trip – CTV News
After a day of meetings on Parliament Hill, U.S President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced updates on various cross-border issues. These include plans to bolster Norad and expand the Safe Third Country Agreement.
CTVNews.ca breaks down Biden’s first presidential visit to Canada, as it happened. Scroll down for our reporters’ real-time coverage of the second day of Biden’s trip to Canada as it unfolded.
Canadians can also access the latest stories on Biden’s trip via CTV News’ social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Canada extends support for those fleeing Russia's illegal and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine – Canada.ca
March 22, 2023—Ottawa—As Russia continues its illegal and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine, Canada will remain steadfast in its support for those who have been forced to flee. This includes helping people find a temporary safe haven in Canada and providing them with the support they need.
Today, the Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced that the Government of Canada will extend the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET). This means that:
- Ukrainians and their family members will have until July 15, 2023, to apply overseas for a CUAET visa free of charge;
- Anyone holding a CUAET visa will have until March 31, 2024, to travel to Canada under the special measures; and
- CUAET holders who are already here in Canada will have until March 31, 2024, to extend or adjust their temporary status through these measures, free of charge.
Settlement services will remain available to Ukrainians and their family members after they arrive so that they can fully participate in Canadian communities while they are here. Ukrainians and their family members will also continue to benefit from the one-time transitional financial support, as well as from access to emergency accommodations for up to 2 weeks, if needed after they arrive in Canada.
The Government of Canada continues to work closely with provincial, territorial and municipal partners, as well as settlement service providers and the Ukrainian-Canadian community, to welcome Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s illegal war.
These measures build on the Government of Canada’s previous actions to support Ukraine’s security and resilience and to hold Russia accountable for its atrocities and crimes. We are closely monitoring the ongoing needs of Ukrainians and will adapt our response as needed.
Calling for closer Canada-U.S. ties, Biden says 'our destinies are intertwined and they're inseparable' – CBC.ca
U.S. President Joe Biden delivered an impassioned speech in the House of Commons Friday, saying the Canada-U.S. relationship has never been stronger while calling for even closer ties to take on the challenges of our times.
Standing in front of the Speaker’s chair as hundreds of MPs, senators and dignitaries looked on, Biden said Canadians and Americans are “two people” that “share one heart” — bound together not only by geography and history but shared democratic values.
In his nearly 40-minute speech, Biden said that, together, the two countries are an unstoppable force that can tackle climate change, a changing economy and an increasingly dangerous world, where authoritarian countries like Russia are bent on defying international norms.
The partnership, he said, extends to space — three Americans and a Canadian will soon be headed for the moon as part of the NASA Artemis program.
“Our destinies are intertwined and they’re inseparable,” Biden said.
“I mean this from the bottom of my heart. There is no more reliable ally, no more steady friend. And today I say to you, you will always be able to count on the United States of America.”
WATCH: We will find ‘no more steady friend’ than Canada: Biden
Together, Biden said, Canada and the U.S. will confront the “scourge” of opioid overdoses.
He vowed to partner with Mexico to tackle the illicit trade in fentanyl, which has wreaked havoc on vulnerable communities throughout North America.
Trudeau, Biden reach agreements during two-day visit
- Canada and the U.S. will expand the Safe Third Country Agreement to the entire land border — a move designed to halt illegal border crossing by migrants. Canada will instead accept up to 15,000 migrants from the Western Hemisphere through legal channels.
- Canada will invest $420 million to protect the Great Lakes as part of a binational effort to defend one of the world’s largest sources of freshwater.
- Canada made a $7.3 billion commitment to air defence to support the continued functioning of NORAD.
- Canada agreed to provide $100 million to support the Haitian police.
- The U.S. will commit roughly $250 million to Canadian and U.S. companies that mine and process critical minerals for electric vehicles and stationary storage batteries.
- Canada and New York-based IBM signed a deal to expand domestic research and development and advanced packaging of semiconductors.
- Biden expressed support for Canada joining the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework
Referencing a deal on migrants, Biden said Canada and the U.S. will safely resettle asylum seekers through a new, more organized process that discourages illegal immigration.
“We believe to our core that every single person deserves to live in dignity, safety and rise as high as their dreams can carry them,” Biden said.
On semiconductors, critical minerals, advanced manufacturing and a pivot to a cleaner, greener economy, Biden said Canada and the U.S. are up to the challenge — ready to work in concert to challenge the dominance of countries like China in these areas.
“After two years of COVID, people began to even wonder, ‘Can we still do big things?’ I say we sure in hell can,” Biden said to thunderous applause from the assembled crowd.
While there are irritants in any relationship, Biden said, Canada and the U.S. are determined to “solve our differences in friendship and with good will, because we both understand our interests are fundamentally aligned.”
WATCH: ‘I like your teams, except the Leafs’: Biden addresses Parliament
Biden joked about the Toronto Maple Leafs (“I like your teams, except the Leafs,” he said to laughter and scattered boos from the crowd) and razzed some MPs who failed to stand and applaud after he praised Canada and the U.S. for having gender equal cabinets.
“Even if you don’t agree guys, I’d stand up,” he said.
He also raised a recent Gallup poll that found Americans have an overwhelmingly positive view of Canadians.
The poll found 88 per cent of U.S. respondents think highly of their neighbours to the north — up from 87 per cent last year. “I take credit for that one point,” Biden said.
In his introductory speech, Trudeau hit many of the same points. He called on Canadians and Americans to come together as storm clouds gather in other parts of the world.
“It has never been clearer that everything is interwoven,” he said. “Economic policy is climate policy is security policy. People need us to think strategically and act with urgency, and that is exactly what brings us together today.”
WATCH: U.S.-Canada border is a ‘meeting place rather than dividing line’: Trudeau
As conflict rages in Europe and inflation bears down on working people, Trudeau said the two countries have faced all of this before.
Citing a 1987 address by former U.S. president Ronald Reagan, who called the Canada-U.S. border a “meeting place rather than a dividing line,” Trudeau said the border is “not just a place where we meet each other. It’s a place where we will meet the moment.”
Touting recent investments in a Michelin tire plant in Nova Scotia, and plans to retool the Defasco steel factory in Hamilton, Ont., Trudeau said Canada is ready to work with the U.S. to take on economic competition from “an increasingly assertive China.”
“We must continue to show resilience, perseverance and strength,” Trudeau said, citing the example of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, the two Canadians who suffered arbitrary detention in China for more than 1,000 days.
Kovrig and Spavor were on hand in the Commons for Friday’s events. Trudeau thanked Biden for his help in securing their release.
With two of its citizens in captivity, Trudeau said, Canada did “not capitulate, we did not abandon our values — we doubled down. We rallied our allies. The rule of law prevailed and the Michaels came home.”
“God bless ya,” Biden said as he recognized Spavor and Kovrig in the gallery above.
Earlier today, Biden was escorted by Trudeau into the West Block where he briefly greeted dignitaries, including Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, other party leaders, senators, the House of Commons Speaker and parliamentary clerks.
Poilievre introduced himself as the leader of his “His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition,” which prompted Biden to quip, “Loyal, huh?”
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May then handed a bemused Biden a chocolate bar made by a Syrian refugee before he was whisked away for a one-on-one meeting with Trudeau.
The busy day followed an intimate gathering last night at Trudeau’s Ottawa home, Rideau Cottage. Trudeau, with his wife Sophie and their three kids, hosted the president and his wife, Jill.
This is the first non-summit overnight visit by a U.S. president in nearly two decades.
It was billed as a chance for Biden and Trudeau to continue their efforts to renew the bilateral relationship, which was marked by some tension in recent years.
The Trump years were a trying time for Canadian officials.
But Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, promote protectionist policies like Buy American and withhold some vaccine supplies were also irritants in the early days of his presidency.
Since then, there’s been meaningful progress on key files: a deal to protect the NEXUS trusted traveller program and a plan to include Canadian-made vehicles in a U.S. electric vehicle tax credit program.
WATCH: U.S. and Canada reach deal on closing Roxham Road border crossing:
And now there is a deal in hand that will allow Canada to close the Roxham Road site, where tens of thousands of refugee claimants have crossed the border irregularly in recent years — a political headache for Trudeau.
The U.S. has been eager to see Canada take a leadership role in efforts to restore order in Haiti, which has descended into chaos in recent months as gangs have tightened their grip on some parts of the Caribbean country.
So far, Canada has resisted pressure to deploy troops.
But after meeting with Biden, Trudeau commited roughly $100 million to the Haitian police.
The funding comes after the UN expressed grave concern for Haiti, saying “extreme violence continues to spiral out of control.”
Biden and Trudeau also had the economy on their minds during the visit.
Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — which was really a climate-change bill, despite its name — includes major tax breaks for companies that pursue green-friendly projects.
Canada is racing to compete — and there may be a role for Canadian businesses to play as the U.S. retools its economy to make it cleaner and greener.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference following his address, Biden said the IRA shouldn’t be seen as a threat to Canada.
He said the U.S. plan to spend billions through the IRA and CHIPS Act, which offers tax breaks to semiconductor companies that manufacture in the U.S., will have spillover effects for Canada.
“We each have what the other needs,” Biden said. “I’m a little confused on why this is a disadvantage for Canada.”
He said U.S. businesses need to tap Canada’s abundance of critical minerals — an industry that currently is dominated by China, an increasingly unreliable business partner.
“We don’t have the minerals to mine, you can mine them. You don’t want to produce, I mean, turn them into product,” Biden said.
WATCH: Biden, Trudeau speak to media in Ottawa
Canada would dispute Biden’s characterization of the critical minerals file.
The federal government has raced to sign multi-billion dollar contracts with major car companies like Stellantis and Volkswagen, which will use Canadian natural resources to manufacture components for electric vehicles.
The economist Harold Innis once described Canadians as “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” a reference to Canada’s long economic dependence on resources.
Trudeau said Friday Canada doesn’t just extract minerals and ship them off.
“The world is understanding they can no longer rely on places like China or Russia,” he said. “They can rely on Canada to not just be a purveyor of ores, but of finished materials.”
WATCH: When U.S. presidents came to Parliament
The Biden trip comes just after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited with another authoritarian leader in Moscow — Russian President Vladimir Putin.
While China cozies up to Russia, Biden framed his trip as a way to bolster relations with a close ally and friend, a democratic Canada.
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