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E-safety czar being touted

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OTTAWA—Creating a federal e-safety czar could help focus the uphill struggle to protect children from the rising threat of online sexual exploitation, frontline agencies have told the government.

Strengthening legislation to support “timely and effective” investigations and working more closely with the technology sector to shield children from harm are among the other recommendations that emerged from a federal consultation last spring.

Public Safety Canada assembled about 70 people—including police, policy-makers, industry representatives, victim service providers, and academics—for two days of meetings in late March and followed the sessions with a questionnaire.

The consultation is the latest step in the government's effort to combat the scourge of online abuse in the era of camera-equipped smartphones and an array of apps, games, and messaging services available to young people.

In addition, victims of childhood sexual abuse often suffer great distress over the fact video or pictures of the crimes are circulating in cyberspace, compounding the difficulties they already experience.

Participants in the federal consultation spoke of a strong, highly-engaged network of individuals devoted to protecting children from predators, says a summary of the consultation prepared by Public Safety, which has led a national strategy on the problem since 2004.

At the same time, increased reporting of incidents and resource shortages have led to problems such as a large backlog for investigators, mental health and well-being concerns for workers, “significant challenges” in timely police access to digital evidence, and a need to improve services for victims.

The findings come two years after a federally-commissioned study found “serious gaps” in efforts—including resources, training, and research—to protect young people from online sexual exploitation.

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