Skip to main content

Ontario Provincial Police arrest 64 suspects in child sexual exploitation investigation


Ontario Provincial Police say 64 suspects are facing a combined 348 charges in connection with a series of child sexual exploitation investigations that spanned the province.

The arrests were announced at a news conference in Scarborough on Wednesday morning as officers provided more details about a multi-jurisdictional investigation, dubbed Project Aquatic.

According to police, the case was launched in February 2024 and included 129 separate investigations from across Ontario involving online sexual abuse material.

Det.- Sgt. Tim Brown told reporters Wednesday that 34 child victims were identified as part of the investigation. Police noted that as a result of Project Aquatic, another 30 children were “safeguarded," which Brown defined as removing children from “a dangerous position” where they could be “offended against.”

More than 600 digital devices were seized as part of the investigation, police said.

“It ranged from teenagers right up to senior citizens, as far as people who were arrested,” Brown said. “We find offenders across the province, every walk of life, every age.”

Police allege that in one case, an individual set up a meeting with undercover investigators with the intention to meet with a child for a sexual purpose. Another suspect, police said, was in possession of approximately 21 terabytes of data containing child sexual abuse material.

Toronto police told CP24 that 13 of the suspects were arrested in in the city and now face a combined 69 criminal charges.

The majority of the investigation, Brown said, was "reactive," with investigators responding to complaints from different electronic service providers.

"We are working tirelessly to continuously apply pressure to those who seek to harm our children," Brown told reporters. "These dangers are not confined to the shadowy corners of the internet. Predators go where children go."

Signy Arnason, the Associate Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, said Canada's tipline for reporting online child sexual abuse and exploitation,, receives about 2,000 to 3,000 tips per month.

“Through our work, we have observed growing networks of adults with problematic sexual interest in children. These online communities share child abuse sexual material, encourage one another to share tactics that include how-to manuals,” she said.

“They normalize the sexual abuse and exploitation of children. Many within these communities obsess over certain victims, try to locate them, and even stalk them well into adulthood. Environments like the dark web fester and facilitate this conduct and AI generated images have tipped the scale on an already epidemic-sized issued.”

Arnason said the number of tips involving AI-generated images has skyrocketed in Canada in recent years.

“There is two sides to that equation. There is one where offenders are seeking the tools to take existing child sexual abuse material to create an AI-generated image. You can only imagine the nightmare for those victims… now there is actually new abusive imagery of them,” she said.

“The second layer to this is the nude AI generators that youth get their hands on and think it is funny to produce an AI generated image of a kid in school. That issue has exploded and we are dealing with schools right across the country where all of a sudden they’ve got this problem… We know that this is incredibly traumatizing and damaging to youth in particular.”

She noted that more government action and regulation is needed to deal with the situation.

“We know that police across Canada cannot keep up. And hotlines around the world... are being flooded with reports involving concerns of child sexual abuse material as well as online sexual violence toward youth,” she said.

"This issue requires a commitment from a multitude of sectors; law enforcement, governments, online platforms, educators, parents and organizations like ours are critical in this fight. But more has to be done."

She added that technology companies must also to do more to help protect children.

“We must approach the protection of children online with the same vigour we have rightfully committed to safeguarding children offline. Technology companies have wielded far too much power, for profit, at the expense of children and long gone are the days of expecting companies to prioritize child safety through voluntary action,” she said.

“Upload prevention, expedited removal of child sexual abuse material, and proper moderation and training are equally critical elements in the fight against online exploitation and abuse of children.” Top Stories

Stay Connected