I didn’t live in Ontario in 1994/1995, so I don’t remember the London orchestrated-for-media kiddie-porn ring dreamt up by Julian Fantino, then police chief, and his department. Gerald Hannon recently revisited the story — which came to be seen as a gay witch-hunt — in his review of a new book that addresses it.

In those years, while Fantino was arresting men for having sex with 14- and 15-year-old boys, I was living in Winnipeg. I also turned 14 in 1994. It was the year I met my first boyfriend and went to my first rave. Many of my high-school friends were sexually active; some got pregnant and had babies in those years. I was old enough to work in a coffee shop and pay my own way at home. A passionate raver by 15, I moved out of my mother’s house when I was in Grade 12 and spent my weekends partying with many men in their 20s, 30s and 40s. The rave scene was an escape for people who were a bit different — including those, like me, coming to terms with their sexuality. We were hairdressers, hustlers and everything in between.

I remember several male teenagers who spent most of their time with older gay men. For some it was about drugs or sex; for others it was an escape from abusive homes or parents who didn’t accept their newfound sexuality. We knew what we were doing and we enjoyed it. Interestingly, that’s what two of the “victims” in the London charade told CBC radio. Former hustler Scott Baldwin and his friend David Ashfield were interviewed for its Ideas program on Oct 7, 1994.

“I think the police have made a big issue out of, really, nothing. I think it’s just a pin-up on gay people in general,” Baldwin said.

Ashfield agreed: “I think that the stuff they’re writing in the papers, a lot of it, is phony... They think all the kids were victims and that they didn’t know what they were doing and stuff like that. They knew what they were doing... I could see if adults would rape a kid or something, that’s wrong. But I’m saying if they are both willing — even if it’s for money, if the kid says yes and says, sure, let’s go — the kid knows what he’s doing.”

There’s a big difference between making and distributing kiddie porn and having consensual sex, even if that sex is on video. Child abuse is a very real problem, which is why it should never have been conflated with what happened in London. Sadly, homophobia and journalistic laziness are with us today. Several of Canada’s major newspapers, for example, continue to headline a Toronto homicide story involving a lesbian couple with the sensationalistic words “lesbian axe murder.” As Hannon points out in his review, while most of the charges in London’s “kiddie porn ring” were prostitution related, the straight press referred to “child pornography for an unconscionable period of time.”

His article is also a timely reminder of the calibre of people promoted to positions of great power in our alarmist, crime-fixated federal government. Consider Fantino’s ministerial colleague, the dishonoured Vic Toews — he of the bombastic you’re either “with us or with the child pornographers.” Or just Google Julian Fantino — it’s a laugh. A man who spent most of his life as a police officer — much of it mired in scandal, including the London farce mentioned — has been tasked with managing Canada’s international development. It’s generous to say Fantino’s made a royal shambles of this portfolio. National Post columnist Michael Den Tandt says he’s the wrong man for every cabinet job. “Perhaps a portfolio could be found that requires Julian Fantino to say and do nothing at all, ever,” he wrote in a Jan 15 column.

The entire saga is a depressing indictment of our political system. The writing was on the wall, yet our government ignored history and common sense (and what is good for the country) in favour of politicking. Canada’s international reputation has once again taken a hit. For those who’ve followed this ignominious career, it will come as no surprise if Julian Fantino ends his professional life in as much disgrace as it began.
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