POLITICS

Member of Ontario premier's transition team faces child porn charges

07/08/2013 11:58 EDT | Updated 09/07/2013 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - A former Ontario deputy education minister, who was also on Premier Kathleen Wynne's transition team, was charged with child pornography offences on Monday.

Benjamin Levin, 61, of Toronto, is facing five charges, including two counts of distributing child pornography and one count of making child pornography.

Levin, currently a professor at the University of Toronto, was arrested Monday after police executed a search warrant at his home following an online child exploitation investigation.

He is also charged with counselling to commit an indictable offence and arrangement of a sexual offence against a child under 16.

Levin appeared in a Toronto court on Monday afternoon and was remanded in custody until July 10, when he will make a bail application.

"He's anxious to defend these charges and we intend to vigorously do so on his behalf," said Levin's lawyer, Gerald Chan.

"What we're going to argue to the court is this is not someone for whom bail should be denied. He's in no danger of leaving the jurisdiction ... or committing any offence if he's released."

Chan added that Levin was "holding up fine" and had the full support of his family.

The premier's office confirmed Levin served on Wynne's transition advisory team but wouldn't comment on the charges.

Wynne's office said the transition team met for the last time June 12, when she thanked members, including Levin, for their work helping her take over the reins from outgoing premier Dalton McGuinty.

Levin served under McGuinty as deputy minister of education from late 2004 to early 2007.

Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals said Levin was recently involved with her ministry through contract research projects and guest speaking roles in his capacity as a professor — work that has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.

"The government of Ontario takes allegations of this nature extremely seriously," Sandals said in a statement.

Toronto police Const. Wendy Drummond said the investigation which resulted in Levin's arrest had been going on for "at least a couple of months" prior to the execution of the warrant.

Police said they do not know whether there could be more victims.

"The investigation is ongoing and the potential is there for us to discover more, but at this point we have the charges that we've got," said Drummond.

Toronto police said they were assisted by police in London, Ont., and the Department of Internal Affairs in New Zealand.

"It is common for us to come into contact with people that other services have also had contact with," Drummond said.

Levin's resume states he had given numerous presentations and seminars in New Zealand.

Levin also served as Manitoba's deputy minister of advanced education and deputy minister of education, training and youth between 1999 and 2002.

According to a resume posted online, Levin has a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Manitoba and a master of education degree from Harvard.

He is currently a professor and research chair in education and leadership at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Levin worked on Wynne's campaign team.