In 1999, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (formerly known as Child Find Manitoba) recognized a gap in the area of child protection. The Internet was becoming increasingly popular, but there was no simple mechanism for Canadians to report potentially illegal incidents that occurred online. As a result, the Canadian Centre set out to establish a tipline to accept reports relating to online child sexual exploitation.
Before establishing Cybertip.ca, the Canadian Centre did extensive research into effective program design. In particular, the tipline modeled its early operations on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline in the United States (established in 1998) and the Internet Watch Foundation in the United Kingdom (established in 1996). Cybertip.ca also worked in consultation with the following entities:
On September 26, 2002, Cybertip.ca was officially launched as a pilot project. In its first years, the tipline’s technical capacity and operations were refined, and public awareness activities were executed mostly within the province of Manitoba. Throughout this time, the tipline was also working on establishing relationships with other provincial governments, law enforcement agencies, and private sector companies. Letters of support for Cybertip.ca were sent from every province and territory to the federal government. In addition, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the RCMP and Criminal Intelligence Service Canada supported the launch of this new service.
In May 2004, the Government of Canada recognized and announced Cybertip.ca as Canada’s national tipline for the public reporting online child sexual exploitation under the National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet. The National Strategy provides funding to support the ongoing operation of Cybertip.ca, as well as the RCMP's National Child Exploitation Crime Centre, which coordinates and supports national child sexual exploitation investigations.
Shortly thereafter, Cybertip.ca coordinated a meeting with Internet services providers, federal and provincial government departments, and law enforcement agencies to discuss a coordinated, voluntary, and broad-based strategy to address, in particular, child pornography. The meeting resulted in the formation of the Canadian Coalition Against Internet Child Exploitation (CCAICE) with initiatives such Cleanfeed Canada originating from this collaboration.
On January 24, 2005, Cybertip.ca was officially launched nationally at a press conference in Ottawa with Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan and Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General from across Canada.
On April 15, 2009, mandatory reporting of child pornography was proclaimed in Manitoba. The Child and Family Services Act was amended to include child pornography in the definition of child abuse and the legislation obligates all people in Manitoba to report suspected child pornography to Cybertip.ca for assessment. Every year, the tipline produces a report summarizing the results within Manitoba.
On December 8, 2011, Bill C-22, An Act Respecting the Mandatory Reporting of Internet Child Pornography by Persons who Provide an Internet Service, came into force. This federal legislation requires all persons who provide an Internet service to report any incident of Internet child pornography. Under section 2 of the regulations, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (through our Cybertip.ca program) was named the designated reporting entity.
Cybertip.ca has played an important role in protecting children in Canada from abuse and exploitation. While the initial establishment of Cybertip.ca focused on online activity, the connection to offences being committed against children in the offline world has been central to our work as well. The truth is that sexual abuse and exploitation begins in the offline world. The tipline has made a concerted effort in Canada over the last number of years to connect abuse in homes, bedrooms, and communities to child abuse images on the Internet – without the first part, the latter does not exist. We applaud Canadians for the essential role they have played and will continue to play in reporting their concerns about children being sexually exploited online.