Toronto
2 min

Jack who?

Lawyer no one's heard of schmoozes Julian Fantino

USED & DISCARDED. A quiet meeting with Julian Fantino was turned into a media circus, pumping the optics for the final decision. Credit: Aldrin Fernando

The Pride board member who attended a mysterious meeting of “gay community leaders” with Julian Fantino trashed the way the event was used to boost the copper in a letter sent to the Police Services Board a few days later.



“Since the conclusion of Monday’s meeting, it has been characterized by some as a broader-based consultation and as an indication of significant support within the gay and lesbian community for Chief Fantino’s potential candidacy for Toronto chief of police. I do not think either of these conclusions can be fairly drawn from this meeting,” wrote Pride’s Russell Mathew.



But that’s exactly how it looked.



The details of the Nov 22 get-together were leaked to the mainstream media, portraying it as “gay community leaders” come to make peace with and welcome the soon-to-be top cop.



Some activists are calling it a handy bit of political engineering.



In fact, it’s believed only five homos attended.



Mathew says he was misled. “It was only after the fact that it became clear…. At the time, it seemed harmless enough.”



He adds that he went as a private citizen, and wasn’t representing Pride. And he hasn’t made public who he supported for the top cop job.



“He’s now police chief whether we like it or not [so] it was worth it, despite” the criticism.



Mathew says Fantino said public-relation type things.



“It was a small meeting, polite and formal. He provided appropriate answers. He was a bit uncertain why he was perceived so negatively.



“We gave him some insights. It was quite useful in that respect.



“He wasn’t appearing to be a candidate for the job.”



Mathew refuses to say who else attended. “We did agree at the meeting that we weren’t going to say who else was there.”



Someone didn’t keep that promise.



The meeting was organized by a lawyer no one contacted by Xtra had ever heard of before.



Jack Fitch did not return Xtra’s call.



Information on Fitch is slim. The Law Society Of Upper Canada lists him as a 48-year-old attorney with a Toronto practice. He was called to the bar in 1980.



Other attendees are believed to include Colin Leishman (a former Pride board member), a real estate agent and a retired insurance salesman.



Spa XS bathhouse principal Peter Bochove was sounded out, but turned it down flat. He is the only other person Xtra could find who was asked.



Of the more than 30 gay men and lesbians contacted by Xtra – all of them people who have worked long and hard in and for the community – none were invited. That includes pastor Brent Hawkes, City Councillor Kyle Rae and Liberal MPP George Smitherman.



No staff members or volunteers at another 20 organizations with strong gay connections (from Desh Pardesh to the Black Coalition For AIDS Prevention, to the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre to the June 13 Committee, the neighbourhood police advisory committee to the Church St business association) received invitations, either.