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Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Twenty-two Ontario children were rescued from child pornography this month, and we should stand with them. The police bust was possible only because warrants were built from Internet protocol addresses selected from 60 of 9,000 computers in Southern Ontario that had received and sent child porn in the previous 60 days.

Obtaining warrants on all addresses simply wasn't practical. "It's still like putting a cup under Niagara Falls, that's all we're catching," said Inspector Scott Naylor, manager of the Ontario Provincial Police's child sexual exploitation section. More than 200 charges were laid against 60 people.

Fifteen of the 22 child victims are receiving care through Boost Child Abuse Prevention & Intervention, where executive director Karyn Kennedy wants us to drop the "child pornography" phrase. "It's child sexual abuse that's happening on the Internet, in real time, and people are sitting and watching this happen," she said.

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So how did protecting children from sexual crimes online get transformed into a debate on privacy in the House of Commons this week?

I think it has something to do with a lack of humility on all sides and playing politics with one of our bedrock values: care for the vulnerable. In the sheer speed and acrimony of public posturing, the Conservative government gave Bill C-30, the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, a hot button title and mocked any who doubted it, while opposition parties criticized "with us or against us" rhetoric that they said ignored legitimate concerns. The debate that played out this week was a sideshow.

Think of it like this: With this kind of cyber crime, surfing the Internet is akin to driving your car. The car is your private property and you know how to use it, but some people keep making the road dangerous. You appreciate the radar gun or spot checks at the side of the road, and you take down a licence-plate number when a driver needs to be reported. It's a public service that keeps us safe. That's how police see access to your IP address – it will help them to identify lawbreakers.

The metaphor fits for why Bill C-30 is applauded by those on the front lines of child protection. Like using a radar gun, hackers employed by the police have developed software that catches images of child sexual exploitation. It's illegal images that are being tracked. Police will take that digital evidence to ask who's trading this, and that leads to an IP address – the licence plate of your car, if you will. For the public good, because child exploitation is expanding its reach through technology, those IP addresses need to be available when required.

But how, when and why they do is what created outrage this week, and we saw just how difficult public trust is to navigate. If we don't get this right, more children will be violated. The accountability demanded of the government is a good thing. Paul Gillespie, the former Ontario police officer who pioneered policing child porn with Microsoft founder Bill Gates, struck a hopeful tone: This gives us a chance to elevate the debate to find answers for protecting children, he told the CBC, and isn't that what everyone would want?

Lorna Dueck hosts Context TV , seen Sundays on Global and Vision TV.

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