An esteemed University of Toronto professor and former deputy minister charged with child exploitation has been released on bail with strict conditions limiting his ability to travel and access the Internet.
Benjamin Levin, 61, was arrested and charged Monday with making and distributing child pornography, counselling to commit an indictable offence, and arranging to commit a sexual offence against a child under the age of 16. On Wednesday, the Crown laid two more charges of possessing and accessing child pornography, bringing the total number of charges against the tenured professor to seven.
A native of Winnipeg, the Harvard-educated Mr. Levin initially worked for the Manitoba government, rising to become the top public servant in both the ministries of Advanced Education and Education, Training and Youth. He also served as Ontario’s deputy minister of education from 2004 to 2007. Earlier this year when Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne replaced Dalton McGuinty, she appointed Mr. Levin to her transition team to provide advice on high-level policy and strategy matters.
Ms. Wynne issued a statement Wednesday saying that the charges against Mr. Levin “are absolutely terrifying.”
“The safety and well-being of our children has always been my absolute priority and at no time did I have any suspicion of criminal behaviour. I am confident that the police and judicial system will address these serious allegations,” Ms. Wynne said.
Ontario Court Justice Fergus O’Donnell ruled that Mr. Levin should not knowingly be in the presence of anybody under the age of 16. He also cannot visit schools, parks or other areas where children tend to gather unless he is accompanied by someone older than 21 and without a criminal record.
The bail amount has been set at $100,000. He cannot live with Barbara, his wife of 35 years, because she is on an extended canoe trip in the Northwest Territories, and Mr. Levin’s family and lawyers have been unable to reach her. He may move back home if she consents after her return, provided he gives police 48 hours written notice.
Mr. Levin is also not allowed to access the Internet except in his office at the U of T. He is barred from accessing social networking sites and e-mail accounts outside of his employee account. Video and phone messaging and devices capable of taking photos, are all off-limits.
None of the allegations against Mr. Levin have been proven in court. He has been the subject of three separate police investigations in Toronto, New Zealand and London, Ont. for about a year.
Mr. Levin is being represented by lawyers Clayton Ruby and Gerald Chan. Mr. Chan had said on Monday that his client is “anxious to vigorously” defend the charges against him. Mr. Ruby echoed his sentiments on Wednesday.
“He’s a man who has made enormous contributions to the educational system in this province and the changes have been copied around the world,” said Mr. Ruby. “And I intend to work very hard to see that he’s shown to be innocent.”
With a report from Adrian Morrow.