The Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit said the arrests were made between May 20 and June 23 as part of a larger investigation with the RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre.
“Online child exploitation victimizes our most vulnerable and is a crime against an entire society that’s built around nurturing our children and keeping them safe,” said Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer.
“Identifying and arresting the perpetrators who prey on children is complex and challenging work, and I commend the investigators of ALERT’s ICE unit for their tireless dedication to this grim, but absolutely necessary, duty.”
ICE had previously reported its highest number of online child exploitation cases in March with 243, far exceeding the two year average of 110.
It’s believed this could be related to a rise in digital dependency due to COVID-19.
“This is a level of activity that has been unparalleled in the existence of the ICE unit,” said Supt. Dwayne Lakusta, ALERT CEO.
“ICE is working incredibly hard to put predators behind bars, but we need parents to do their part and be vigilant of their kids’ online activities.”
The 18 suspects face 65 charges and range in age from 18 to 74, although one was arrested as a minor, and reside in several communities including Calgary, Airdrie, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Grande Prairie.
There is no definitive link between the suspects, apart from the nature of their alleged offences.