It was Seneca who once claimed “there is no great genius without some touch of madness,” yet if the charges are true, it is hard to say what the ancient philosopher would make of Blair Evans, a 51-year-old nuclear physicist who was arrested in January for making and possessing child pornography involving children as young as six months old.

Police seized CDs, videotapes, computers, and photos from Evans’ Toronto home depicting more than 200,000 images of over 10,000 children “being sexually abused in the most unimaginable ways,” said Staff Inspector Gary Ellis, the head of Toronto’s sexual assault unit to reporters. The authorities were tipped off by an undercover detective in New Zealand, who had allegedly been corresponding with Evans through a child-porn chat room. Staff Inspector Ellis added new leads might develop out of Evans’ arrest because “every time we arrest someone we get their logs and we know who they’ve been chatting with… they’re going to get caught.”

At the time of his arrest, Evans was actually on probation for a 1999 conviction for child pornography. A former satellite-systems researcher for the Department of National Defence in Ottawa, Evans’ first arrest in 1996 prompted a departmental investigation to determine if other employees were using military computers to acquire and store child pornography. When the time came for sentencing, an Ottawa psychiatrist told the judge Evans posed little risk of re-offending, and the judge – noting Evans had already lost his job and his family – sentenced him to eight months in prison, and ordered him to receive counselling and drug treatment for mild pedophilia.

At a news conference in late January, police officers said there are at least 200 active child pornography cases in the Toronto area, and even possessing the material exploits the involved and feeds the demand for it. Staff Inspector Ellis called child pornography an “epidemic” in the city, stressing: “We are one of the centres in the world for distributing pornography. It’s our hidden crime; it’s our hidden shame as a community.” According to Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, the number of Canadian internet child pornography cases tracked by the organization nearly doubled to 500 in 2001.

Detective Sergeant Paul Gillespie, who spent a weekend looking through Evans’ collection, told reporters the experience was “sickening … all you have to see is one image and you’ll never be the same … there’s no warm and fuzzy way to explain the look of terror on a four-year-old’s face when he is being sodomized.”

Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino told reporters that child pornography has become an “extensive” and “pervasive” problem for law enforcement because of the widespread availability of the internet. “We no longer police within the confines of our respective communities,” said the chief. “The internet and technology are now taking us worldwide, and this is the new police beat.” Child pornographers are an important target, said Fantino, because “if we can’t protect our children, then we should, as a society, fly the white flag of surrender because all is lost.”

Derek Rogusky, director of research for Focus on the Family Canada, told The Interim he agrees with Fantino, saying: “The police who deal with this issue keep telling us (child pornography) is a widespread problem, and Canada isn’t doing enough to deal with it.”

Rogusky said that punishment for pedophilia “unfortunately often depends on the judge,” adding “first and foremost, there has to be a punishment for people who (possess or produce child pornography)… throw the book at them, but we also have to think about what to do with a pedophile who has served his time. We can’t just put him back on the street.”

Asked about the links between homosexuality and pedophilia, Rogusky replied that while he is disturbed by the lobbying efforts of the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) – a group with links to the larger gay community,– “there are people of both sexual orientations who prey on children, and there are certainly gay activists who are speaking out against (child pornography). Regardless of how you feel about homosexuality, it’s an issue that isn’t necessarily related.” Still, Rogusky said that because heterosexuals eventually become parents, “we’re probably more concerned about child pornography.”

Rogusky also expressed a “deep concern” about a “small and determined element” that he believes is attempting to gradually mainstream child pornography, and desensitize Canadians to its dangers. “Probably about 99.9 per cent of Canadians have a real moral revulsion to pedophilia,” he estimated. “Yet we have to guard against little things like those Calvin Klein ads that came out a few years ago which showed young boys in their underwear. These things might, over time, make pedophilia less shocking, less despicable, and make Canadians a little more accepting of it.”