Editor’s note: On Dec. 4, 2020, a spokesperson with Alberta Justice and Solicitor General confirmed the charges against Janke were stayed. The spokesperson said “the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service makes decisions independent of government and independently determined that there was no longer a reasonable likelihood of conviction and stayed the charges.”
A doctor who has been practicing for over 30 years in Sylvan Lake, Alta., has been charged with child exploitation offences after police allege he tried to arrange to have sex with a child.
The probe began in Victoria, where the police department there had been conducting an online investigation on a website that police said is known to host online chat rooms geared toward child sex. When Victoria police realized the suspect was from Alberta, they got in touch with ALERT, the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team, and its Internet Child Exploitation unit (ICE).
Police said a man began engaging in a sexually explicit conversation with a person he met online in October 2017. As the conversations continued, police said the man attempted to arrange for sex with the person’s five-year-old daughter.
The man did not know he was speaking with an undercover member of the Victoria Police Department.
“Sometimes there’s a lot of weeks and months and sometimes a full year that goes by before trust is established between a target and the undercover operator,” ALERT Staff Sgt. Stephen Camp said on Friday.
“In this particular incident, there was some discussion that went on for some time before they moved into a content that was highly sexualized.”
Dr. Fred Janke, 62, was arrested in Edmonton on Thursday and has been charged with making arrangements to commit sexual offences against a child, making child pornography and distribution of child pornography.
Police said they do not have any evidence right now to suggest that any children were physically harmed or offended upon at this point in the investigation, but Camp said that has the potential to change.
“Given his position of trust and authority as a family physician, it is only prudent that we bring this to the public’s attention and open the door for potential victims to come forward.”
Camp told a news conference on Friday afternoon that the conversations with the undercover officer in Victoria continued up until Thursday. Camp said no formal date or time had been set for the alleged sex to occur, but clarified that a suspect doesn’t have to go to a location for sex to have committed a criminal offence.
“In this criminal offence, just the discussion of the accused to do it, whether he moves physically to do it or not, is a breach of the Criminal Code. An accused can spend months talking about having sex with a child or hours talking about having sex with a child and not actually physically go to do that and he’s breaking the Criminal Code.”
Janke is an associate professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Alberta, according to the university’s website.
According to the bio, he was named Outstanding Clinician of the Year for the David Health Region in 2000 and was honoured for his contributions to family medicine through a Canadian College of Family Physician Fellowship Award in 2002.
The Professional Association of Residents of Alberta recognized him in 2002-03 with an award for excellence in clinical teaching that year. In 2009, he received a fellowship from the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada in recognition of his service to rural communities and teaching rural medicine. The bio also mentions an interest in hypnotherapy and “its relationship to medical endeavours including as a complement to family medicine.”
The university told Global News it was “unable to comment on an active police investigation,” but said the university would co-operate fully “if requested.” Late Friday afternoon, the university issued a statement confirming Janke remains an employee of theirs.
“Privacy laws prevent the U of A from disclosing additional personal information relating to his employment,” the statement reads. “The university is committed to providing a safe working and learning environment, and will take all appropriate steps to ensure the safety and well-being of the university community.”
Later on Friday, the university issued a statement in which it said Janke had been placed on leave and that his “duties have been reassigned.”
“Today the University of Alberta learned with surprise and grave concern of the arrest of one of its faculty members, Dr. Fred Janke, associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry,” the statement reads. “While we are unable to comment on an active police investigation, we will co-operate fully if requested.”
On Friday morning, the website of the College of Family Physicians of Canada listed a Dr. Fred Janke as the president of its Alberta chapter. The college issued a statement Friday afternoon saying that had changed.
“The Alberta College of Family Physicians is shocked and saddened by this news announced today,” the statement read. “Due to the gravity of this matter, we will not be available for further comment.”
The college added that Dr. Vishal Bhella had assumed the role of president of the Alberta chapter, effective immediately.
Spokesperson Steve Buick said the allegations against Janke were a surprise. He said there had been no indications that the college should be concerned about Janke’s practice and there had also been no disciplinary history.
“In some cases you see warning signs,” Buick said. “You get complaints, you hear concerns from colleagues and, in retrospect, you might say, ‘Well we should have known. We should have looked more closely.’ In this case, there’s just nothing. There’s just no record of anything that caused us a concern.”
Buick confirmed that Janke had agreed to voluntarily withdraw from practicing medicine.
“There was no real choice about it, the only choice he had was to withdraw voluntarily or for us to go through the process to suspend his licence.”
If Janke is not convicted, he still may not be able to go right back to practicing. Buick said the college may need to do its own investigation and determine whether professional sanctions are warranted.
Watch below: Dr. Fred Janke, a prominent Alberta doctor who practiced in Sylvan Lake for about three decades, has been arrested and charge with several offences, including making arrangements to commit sexual offences against a child. Kim Smith reports on how people are reacting in the central Alberta town.
On Friday afternoon, the mayor of Sylvan Lake issued a statement about Janke’s arrest.
“The news of these serious and disturbing charges comes as a shock to our community,” Sean McIntyre’s statement reads.
“I very much appreciate and value the work of the Internet Child Exploitation Team, and their ongoing efforts in keeping our communities safe from predators.”
ICE is asking anyone with information about the case to come forward and contact police or cybertip.ca.
Camp said ALERT has been in touch with the clinic that Janke worked at, but said they are not making attempts to get in touch with previous patients.
“We’re not going to go out asking victims when they’re not ready and hopefully if there were conflict offences, they will come forward.”
Buick added that any former patients of Janke’s who need to see a doctor shouldn’t be concerned with going to the same clinic. He encouraged patients to contact the clinic and ask to see another doctor.
Janke will be released but has been given a number of conditions he must follow, including not to use or access or be in possession of any device capable of accessing the internet, not to use the internet outside of limited access related to his employment, not to have contact with anyone under the age of 18 and not to be within 100 metres of any public park, swimming pool, daycare centre, school ground, playground or community centre.
ALERT is comprised of several Alberta police forces, including the Edmonton Police Service, which assisted in the arrest.