The Saskatchewan Internet and Child Exploitation (ICE) unit was formed in 2009 and since then, has convicted more than 200 people.
There are few things more disturbing than crimes against children, according to one of the unit’s lead investigators.
“When you’re seeing stuff like bodily harm being inflicted on a child that’s tough to just ignore or treat as evidence,” Cpl. Jared Clarke explained from his office in Saskatoon.
Clarke has been with ICE since 2011, specializing in undercover investigations.
“I go onto the web into places where either I can pose as a child and be approached or go to the deeper darker corners, posing as a peer offender.”
Most recently, Clarke compiled evidence against Philip Chicoine, 28, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for child pornography related charges.
His collection is some of the worst Clarke has ever viewed.
Chicoine arranged and facilitated live-streamed child pornography with help from women in Philippines and Romania, instructing them how to abuse children while streaming the video to him.
“A lot of the material that is the most difficult to work with is that hurt core. You know, where the offender and the reason they like that type of material is because of the pain being inflicted on the children and so you’re categorizing that and you’re working through that and these kids are screaming in these videos,” Clarke explained.
The job as an ICE investigator, specifically the Chicoine case, led Clarke to disconnect from his family and children.
“I have three young boys who tend to punch, kick and fight with each other and when they started screaming … it just was tough.”
Clarke eventually sought counselling.
Because of this investigation, nine children in Philippines were rescued.
“I started crying,” Clarke said thinking back to the phone call he received to share the good news. “I was so happy. That’s what keeps you going.”
Sgt. Scott Lambie is the unit’s provincial coordinator. The tracking of ICE statistics began in 2012.
“We’ve had over 100 kids rescued across Canada and around the world,” Lambie said proudly.
Once charges are laid, there’s a 98 per cent success rate in convictions.
“We get a lot of guilty pleas and that’s just because we do such a good job on the investigation,” Lambie said.
According to Clarke, his investigations have resulted in nightmares, anxiety and panic attacks but it’s all in an effort to protect children.
“You never know when that next case is going to be that gives you an opportunity to save more kids and that’s the draw. That’s what wants to keep you there.”
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Three days after Chicoine was sentenced, the ICE unit pressed charges against a 33-year-old man from Delmas, Sask.
The Saskatchewan ICE unit consists of 11 people stationed between Prince Albert, Regina and Saskatoon. In recent years, the unit is averaging 30 to 40 convictions annually.