There was a lavish reception at David Mirvish Books on Nov 23 for the launch of OPP commissioner and former Toronto police chief Julian Fantino’s autobiography Duty: The Life of a Cop. Some 200 people attended from cabinet ministers and journalists to RCMP and Toronto police brass.
When Fantino was appointed as Toronto police chief in 1999, through what many saw then as a somewhat devious process, his reputation as a homophobe and enemy of queers had certainly preceded him. He was almost immediately invited to speak at a packed meeting at the 519 Community Centre; a meeting that I chaired. As the Toronto Star reported, “The crowd frequently hooted their derision at Fantino’s vague responses.”
As police chief he reached out to Toronto’s homos, establishing the first official queer liaison committee, naming activist and pastor Brent Hawkes to his elite advisory committee and appointing a liaison officer to the queer community. But in the 1990s as London’s chief of police he presided over one of the most notorious gay sex witch-hunts in recent history.
When I spoke with Fantino at the book launch and told him I was writing an article on his book for Xtra. He urged me to “be nice and charitable.” But he is far from nice or charitable to the dozens of people and institutions he attacks in his 320-page score-settling memoir. He is also unapologetic and even cocky about his time in London.
“I am not antigay or homo-phobic,” Fantino writes in the book, adding that he “doesn’t care what someone’s sexuality is as long as they do not break the law.”
But his account of the infamous Project Guardian shows how little Fantino learned from his battles with Ontario’s queers. Guardian was the investigation into a supposed London child pornography ring while Fantino was that city’s chief of police. It saw several men convicted of sex with underage males, two men convicted of producing underage porn and dozens of men unjustly charged and vilified for having consensual sex with hustlers older than the age of consent.
Most of the alleged victims of the supposed ring were teen boys who were identified, brought in and questioned by the police themselves. Almost no one came forward on his own. Gary Gramlick and Edward Jewell were charged and convicted of child porno-graphy in connection with homemade sex videos. But there was no kiddie porn ring in London. The closest thing to a ring was a group of hustlers and their clients.
In the chapter entitled “Hell on Earth for Me,” Fantino describes Project Guardian as the breakup of a massive “child-porn ring of paedophiles” that seduced underage London youths into sex in return for “contraband” tobacco, alcohol, drugs and money.
After setting out his version of the facts and the harm his “ring” did to many “children” Fantino writes that Project Guardian “became an uphill battle for police” as “critics came out and went for the jugular” with “a campaign based on self-serving mis-information.” He describes journalist Gerald Hannon’s 1995 Globe piece, “The Kiddie Porn Ring that Wasn’t,” as a “vile, viscous attack… I was shocked that a national newspaper such as the Globe and Mail would carry such a story.” (Hannon is also a member of the board of directors of Pink Triangle Press which publishes Xtra.)
Next Fantino savagely attacks John Greyson’s 1995 CBC documentary, After the Bath, calling it “part of a well-organized campaign that somehow got Canada’s national television broadcaster to serve as its conduit.”
He also goes after former Toronto mayor John Sewell, Toronto city councilor Howard Moscoe and former federal justice minister Alan Rock.
“Looking back I think of the entire campaign as the most vile, unfair, unethical treatment of police that I have ever seen in my entire career in law enforcement,” writes Fantino. “What it tells me is that those who influenced the expenditure of taxpayer’s money must have had a sympathetic ear for paedophiles.”
The reality is that innocent people got caught up in Fantino’s overzealous pursuit of child abusers and exploiters. But in Fantino’s simple black-and-white world there were 62 complainants and 61 “suspect offenders” including a teacher, a school principal, an Anglican priest and a real estate agent. He inexplicably concludes, “If that is not a ring I don’t know what is.”
Fantino is obsessed with paedo-philes. He repeatedly applies the word to all the defendants in the Project Guardian cases and in many other cases ranging from murder and sexual abuse to consensual sex with teen hustlers. He uses it again and again in his memoir.
“The whole thing is a sordid, sick, perverted crime,” he writes, “and it makes my blood boil.”
He refers to the strength of the “paedophile movement,” and later writes that “organized networks of paedophiles thrive in every corner of the globe” and that “they are politicians, journalists, clergy, professors, doctors, lawyers” and they “are even in law enforcement.” He writes that they “use their positions to manipulate public opinion.” These people are “brutal criminals” in Fantino’s reality.
Anyone who defends any of the alleged paedophiles or challenges any of the cases is automatically dismissed as someone who is sympathetic to paedophilia or an apologist for paedophiles. Although not mentioned by name, this would no doubt include Greyson and CBC executive producers Jerry McIntosh and Don Richardson (both of whom I have worked with closely and found to be stern editors and sticklers for accuracy), CBC Ideas producer Max Allen, late Ideas narrator Lister Sinclair, researcher and journalist Joseph Couture, Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario leaders Tom Warner and Nick Mule and Homophile Association of London Ontario stalwarts Clarence Crossman and Richard Hudler and the Globe and Mail editor who commissioned and ran Hannon’s article Sarah Murdoch.
Curiously with all of the inordinate attention to paedophilia in Fantino’s book — far more references than to organized crime or youth gang killings or any other major criminal problem — there is only one reference to paedophilia cited in the index.
Fantino doesn’t think much of civil libertarians, the Canadian criminal justice system or the corrections system, either.
“Rehabilitation is a total myth,” he writes. “The jails do not rehabilitate people, they warehouse people.”
The solution to crime in cities like Toronto, he argues, is simply to put more and more police on the streets no matter the cost.
“In the long run the city would be better off,” he writes.
Fantino’s “simple solution” to crime is that “breaking the law and victimizing people should result in certain and severe consequences.”
He says the Charter of Rights and Freedoms offers more protection to criminals than it does to everyday people.
“Who has reaped the greatest benefit from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?” he asks. “I would argue that if it isn’t common criminals then it must be the Hell’s Angels.”
He hates criminals and mobsters and is in favour of the death penalty for murderers. He misses the old vagrancy laws that allowed police to scoop homeless people off the streets.
This very rightwing law-and-order conservative is now the man at the head of the OPP, the second-largest police force in the country, and has the ear and friendship of Premier Dalton McGuinty who appointed him last year.
Fortunately for those of us in Toronto’s queer community by the time Fantino became chief in Toronto he seemed to have learned something from the exposés by the CBC, the Globe and Mail and Xtra.
“The good news, if there is any, is that the Project Guardian witch-hunt was mainly confined to London,” Couture told me after the Fantino book was released. “Had Julian Fantino not encountered such stiff resistance from the local gay community in the early days he would have undoubtedly brought the show with him to Toronto. Had he got away with London I’m sure he would have attempted to steamroll the Toronto gay community.”