Fifteen percent of child pornography incidents were cleared, leaving over 8 out of 10 incidents (85 percent) not cleared.
Of online child sexual predation and abuse incidents where a victim was identified, 56 percent were not cleared, which meant that “police were not able to identify an accused person in relation to the incident,” according to the report.
From 2014 to 2020, the rates of abuse increased from 50 incidents per 100,000 children and youth to 131 incidents per 100,000.
“While this crime may be on the rise in Canada, part of this increase could also be related to better training of police officers to detect this crime and increased willingness of victims to report,” the report said.
Only a fraction of sexual offences are reported to police, however, a problem compounded by the offender’s use of smart devices that make it easier for them to hide their actions and harder for police to investigate them.
“As a result, police-reported data likely underestimate the true extent of this form of abuse in Canada.”
Cybercrime has increased as well, with 31 percent more cases in 2020 than in 2019. Additionally, the rate of police-reported online child pornography was 35 percent higher and the rate of online sexual offences against children was 10 percent higher when comparing the same years.
“These increases contrast starkly with the overall year-over-year decrease in police-reported crime rates—including sexual assaults,” the report said. It attributes these to higher rates of distribution and expanded access to material, such as online child pornography, which also increased in 2020 compared with 2019.
“The rise in the rate of online child sexual exploitation and abuse from 2019 to 2020 was largely driven by increases in the rates of both possessing or accessing child pornography (+33 percent), and making or distributing child pornography (+35 percent), as well as by a 22 percent increase in the rate of child luring offences.”
In May 2020, Public Safety Canada also warned that the dangers of exploitation may be increased by pandemic conditions and children spending more time online without supervision.
“Children and teens are spending more time online as a result of school and daycare closures and social distancing measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said in a briefing published on its website.
“When online, many minors often have limited oversight by parents and guardians. This greatly increases their risk of being recruited and groomed online, including for the purpose of sexual exploitation. “