York teacher among those arrested in online child sexual exploitation bust involving Peel Police
On Wednesday the Ontario Provincial Police announced the results of Project Limestone, a three-day online child exploitation investigation that led to the arrest of ten people, including a teacher with the York Region District School Board (YRDSB); and a repeat offender who was out on bail at the time of their arrest.
Timothy Baulk, 52, was arrested and charged with luring a person under 16 for invitation to sexual touching; and making available pornography to a person under 16. None of the charges have been tested in court. Baulk was released on bail and his case is set to appear in a Newmarket courtroom on November 16th.
A request for comment sent to the YRDSB about the status of Baulk’s employment with the board was not returned ahead of publication.
Timothy Baulk has been a teacher with the York Regional District School Board for 22 years prior to his arrest for online luring, according to his LinkedIn profile.
According to Baulk’s LinkedIn page, he has been a secondary school teacher with the YRDSB since 2001 and head of health and physical education for a Richmond Hill high school since 2019.
Ahead of the OPP announcement, the York Regional Police issued a press release on September 25th regarding Baulk’s arrest in conjunction with the Peel Regional Police, which noted he was allegedly using the monikers “Gymteacher” and “Gymteacher1” to communicate online. Following the press release, posts from individuals on social media claimed Baulk was a former teacher of theirs.
Also charged as part of the operation include:
- Michael Williams, 49, of North Bay
- Colin Amer, 37 of Sudbury
- Brandon Poirier, 30, of Sudbury
- Joseph Tomchak, 65 of Sault Ste. Marie
- Wilfred Thyssen, 67, of Fergus
- Muhammad Khan, 31, of Vaughan
- John Chau, 29, of Vaughan
- Ayushkumar Patel, 25, of Markham
- An unnamed 43-year-old male from Massachusetts
Project Limestone took place between September 12th and 15th and involved police agencies across Ontario conducting undercover operations in online chatrooms and on social media applications to identify and arrest people looking to sexually exploit children. A total of ten investigators from police services in North Bay, Sudbury, Durham, York and Peel took part in the sting, resulting in 39 charges. The nature of the alleged crimes, with online activity at the centre, allowed the collaboration and ensuing investigation to unfold rapidly, and arrests to be made in just three days.
In one circumstance, it took no more than an hour and a half from first engaging with an individual, to the accused arriving at a location to meet with who they believed to be a child. A total of six people were arrested when they arrived at the pre-set location to meet with who they believed to be a child—and instead were arrested by undercover officers. In certain cases, the accused arrived with candy, toys and sexual paraphernalia, the release states.
Toys, candy and lubricant brought along by accused individuals looking to meet-up with children they connected with online.
The arrests are the result of the Provincial Strategy to Protect Children from Sexual Abuse and Exploitation on the Internet. The Strategy, created in 2006 following the 2003 murder of 10-year-old Holly Jones, brings police agencies in Ontario together to combat a crime that extends beyond jurisdictional borders.
“Online child sexual exploitation is facilitated by recent technological developments that enable direct communication between offenders and victims, as well as offenders and other offenders, from all over the world,” a 2019 report from the Virtual Global Taskforce states. “Consequently, law enforcement…indicated how international cooperation to combat this crime-type is essential.”
Despite police efforts, there has been a disturbing rise of this crime in Canada over the last decade.
The rate of police-reported incidents of child exploitation and abuse have nearly tripled in Canada since 2014.
This increase has created a tidal wave of potential cases for Peel Police’s ICE unit, which receives tips about potential online abuse from the National Child Exploitation Crime Centre (NCECC), operated by the RCMP. The NCECC takes reports of potential child sexual abuse material found online and sends them to the police organizations in those jurisdictions. Last year saw Peel’s ICE unit received 807 referrals from the NCECC—a record number, surpassing the previous high of 794 in 2020, and a 19 percent increase over 2021.
A report released by Statistics Canada in May last year includes a number of similar, disturbing findings across the country:
- there have been over 40,000 incidents of online sexual offences against children, and child pornography cases since 2014; 73 percent of victims were young girls between the ages of 12 and 17; 13 percent were under the age of 12
- police-reported child pornography cases spiked 35 percent in 2020, the first year of the pandemic; online child sexual exploitation and abuse increased 28 percent in 2020
- 85 percent of child pornography incidents were not solved; meaning neither a victim or an accused could be identified
- between 2014 and 2020 only 36 percent of charges laid for child sexual offences committed online resulted in the accused being found guilty
Reports have also found that this type of child abuse and exploitation occurs an unsettling amount within educational settings.
A report released by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P) last year revealed the startling revelation that in the five years between 2017 and 2021, more than 500 students were sexually abused, or allegedly abused at the hands of a teacher or school staff member—in cases where gender could be identified, nearly 75 percent of victims were female. The report also notes that in many cases, the true number of victims can not be determined, meaning the actual number of those abused through school-based relationships is certainly much higher.
The C3P report also outlined the failure of Canadian schools to develop standardized systems to handle allegations of sexual abuse against students by teachers or other staff. The protocols currently in place to shield children from abuse, the report shows, are grossly inadequate.
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