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Playing Your Part is All You Need to Make an Impact

Written by: David Pollendine, National Director of Development

A New Beginning

I started working for IJM in June 2017. I had not long arrived in Winnipeg with my family to start a new chapter from the UK. Coming from the hustle and bustle of London to Winnipeg did take some getting used to and my immediate thought was: “What can I do here to be useful?” The vastness of the prairies made me feel so small and slightly lost and I thought: “How can I possibly make a difference here in what feels like the middle of nowhere?”

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In January 2018, I travelled to Washington DC for an in-person orientation at IJM’s head office. I got to meet many people during that week who I would be working with, and it was great to find out what jobs they had and how they were making themselves useful. Together we would work to protect millions of vulnerable people across four continents. “Humm”, I thought to myself: “Perhaps I will feel useful after all.”

An Important Meeting


One meeting stood out that week. A young lawyer, Linda Yang introduced herself to me, the only Canadian taking part in the IJM Fellows program that year. She explained how she would be going to Cebu to join the IJM Philippines team to serve in a supporting role with their legal team. The team was focused on tackling the crime of Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC). The meeting was short, but I remembered Linda because of the Canadian connection.

Back in Winnipeg, just a few months later as I worked in my basement office sending out letters and emails to donors and updating spreadsheets, I received a short email from Linda Yang:

“Hi David, this is Linda Yang from Cebu. You remember we met at the IJM Orientation a few months ago. I wonder if you can help me?’

Linda explained that a Canadian national, Philip Chicoine had been apprehended and arrested in Saskatoon back in June 2017 when I first started working with IJM. There was an ongoing court case and they needed material evidence to be presented in court which had been collected by the RCMP ICE team in Saskatchewan in order to build a case to make a conviction.

Linda asked if I had any knowledge about how to get police officers from the RCMP ICE team who worked on the case to go to the Philippines and testify. This was obviously something that hadn’t happened before. As I sat alone in my basement, I felt very inadequate and I asked the question to myself: How on earth can I be useful here? I have no personal contacts with anyone in the RCMP.”

Then I thought to myself: “I don’t need to have a contact with the RCMP. I can ask one of my IJM Canada Colleagues.” So I forwarded the email to our then VP of Operations (Kevin Dixon) and he too had no contacts, but he had one big advantage over me. ‘Proximity’ to the RCMP headquarters in Toronto. He managed to find his way to the floor which was usually not accessible to the general public and put forward the request.

Working together is effective

Within a few months, two RCMP officers from the ICE team who had worked on the case went to the Philippines to testify and Philip Chicoine was sentenced to initially 12 years in prison. After an appeal in 2019, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal increased Chicoine’s sentence to 15 years, making it Saskatchewan’s highest sentence for internet child sex offences.

In March 2023, Cpl Jared Clarke, the lead officer from the RCMP who travelled to the Philippines in 2017 was contacted again by the Philippines National Police. This time, his testimony was used against one of the traffickers in the Chicoine case. She was sentenced to life in prison for child abuse, life in prison for trafficking and 17 years for sexually assaulting minors online.

This time around, the police leant heavily on international collaboration. As a result, no child had to be put on the witness stand and risk being traumatized again during the court process.

Prosecutor Junery Bagunas said: “This case was a big win for child protection.

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Cpl. Jared Clarke met some of the rescued children while in the Philippines to testify at the trial against one of the traffickers. (RCMP/Submitted)

Reflecting on the question I asked myself seven years ago

My work for IJM has spanned the length of the Chicoine case: six years. During this time, I have had the privilege to see along with our staff and supporters, the effectiveness of our IJM Philippines team. Last year, they celebrated 1,000 rescues of children from OSEC, a milestone representing the restoration of countless children’s lives, and the restraint of perpetrators like Chicoine. Together we are protecting children in the future from ever experiencing this abuse in the first place.

I feel very privileged to have been able to play some very small role in this along with many others including Linda Yang, Cpl Jared Clarke and Prosecutor Junery Bagunas. Cpl Jared Clarke himself summed up the importance of everyone doing their bit:

“It takes my words away when I think about how that started to where it ended. If it weren’t for RCMP with our liaison officer, with the National Centre, if it wasn’t for us providing that, if it wasn’t for the IJM assisting the PNP, and if it wasn’t for the PNP actually caring to focus on it.” Jared Clarke (Saskatoon StarPhoenix – Online News)

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As I reflect on the question I asked seven years ago when we first came to Canada: “What can I do here to be useful?” The answer resounds loudly back to me - Play Your Part. No matter how big or small your role might be, it is important.

Corporal Jerad Clarke certainly played his part and was able to personally give a thumb drive full of evidence to the RCMP liaison officer for the Philippines while teaching ICE techniques in Singapore. From there, it was given to the Philippine National Police, who work in conjunction with the IJM.

There are two things that have stayed with me from my last seven years in Canada:

  • One, it’s always good to make room to meet other people, no matter how long or short that may be. In my case, I will be seeing Atty Linda Yang on a more regular basis, as she now represents IJM Canada on our board.
  • Two, there is no such place as the middle of nowhere!


If you would like to play a significant role in the work of IJM Canada protecting vulnerable people from violence and slavery, then please consider playing your part by becoming a Freedom Partner. For just $35 a month, you can walk with vulnerable women, children and men to bring hope and protection one step at a time.

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