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Former ‘Degrassi High’ actor pleads guilty to child porn charges

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Warning: Graphic content follows.

A former Degrassi High actor pleaded guilty to five child pornography-related charges Tuesday, admitting that he not only possessed thousands of X-rated images and videos involving children but that he recorded two himself.

Jason (Byrd) Dickens, seen in a Toronto police photo, left, and as Scott Smith in “Degrassi High,” pleaded guilty to child porn charges in Toronto on Tuesday.
Jason (Byrd) Dickens, seen in a Toronto police photo, left, and as Scott Smith in “Degrassi High,” pleaded guilty to child porn charges in Toronto on Tuesday.  (Toronto Police/YouTube)

“Thank you, everybody, for getting to this point,” Jason (Byrd) Dickens, 47, said in the nearly empty Ontario Court of Justice courtroom at Old City Hall.

Dickens’ wife, Dylan McEwen, is already serving a six-year sentence after pleading guilty in June to making and possessing child pornography, sexual assault and counselling for a sexual purpose a person under 16 years to touch her with an object.

The couple, who met on a bondage website in 2004, were active members of the BDSM community and openly practised a consensual “Master-slave” relationship, which they formalized with a “collaring” ceremony, Crown attorney Jennifer Gibson said, reading from an eight-page agreed statement of facts.

They married in 2008 when he was 36 and she was 22. Dickens was employed as a rigging gaffer in the film and TV industry and McEwen ran a massage therapy clinic in Toronto’s west end.

The U.S.-based search engine Google became aware of suspected child pornography uploads from two email addresses later found to belong to Dickens, according to a judge’s written reasons in McEwen’s case. A report was sent to the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre, leading officers with the Toronto police sex crime unit to obtain search warrants for the couple’s Etobicoke bungalow and Dickens’ workplace.

Police seized dozens of digital devices and found approximately 25,000 child porn images and 111 videos, including animated and non-animated depictions of children of all ages, including infants, engaged in all forms of explicit sexual assault, Gibson said.

Dickens stood throughout the proceedings in the prisoner dock, wearing a black hoodie and pants. He occasionally lowered the glasses on his head to read along from the agreed statement of facts. At one point, while crying and dabbing his eyes with a tissue, Justice Steven Clark asked Dickens if he needed time to compose himself. He declined and the hearing continued.

He has remained in custody since his arrest on April 25, 2016, and has been representing himself.

Appearing on a large TV monitor was a 29-year-old victim, whose identity is also covered under a publication ban, whose mother arranged an online “date” with Dickens when she teenager in 2003. The mother informed Dickens “that she had a daughter who was turning 15 shortly, who was interested in older dominant men,” Gibson said.

Dickens, who would have been in his early 30s, captured several images of their sexual contact with a digital camera, that he saved and Toronto police found in 2016.

His face is clearly visible, as is that of the then teenager and her mother, who sat nearby and “offered encouragement (and) assuring words” to her daughter to engage in sexual conduct with Dickens. The woman told police she was the victim of incest at the hands of her mother and stepfather from the time she was about 12 years of age.

Her mother was sentenced last year to five years in prison and put on the sex offender registry for life.

A sentencing date for Dickens has not yet been set.

Dickens appeared in 10 episodes of the CBC television show Degrassi High in the early 1990s. He portrayed Scott Smith, the abusive boyfriend of one of the main characters in the series.

Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy

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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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