3 min

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition

Ontario Provincial Police chief Julian Fantino held a press conference on Feb 12 to announce that police across the province have laid more than 70 charges against 23 people for possessing child pornography and distributing it over the internet. Police say additional arrests are forthcoming.

Investigators at the press conference cited Flint Waters, head of the Wyoming Internet Crimes Task Force, who has supposedly developed software that can track kiddie porn to individual computers through peer-to-peer file sharing networks.

To pump up the fear factor the OPP says Waters has identified 205,000 unique IP addresses across Canada — including 63,000 across Ontario with 4,000 in Toronto — that have been used to trade kiddie porn.

“It’s a major problem for us,” Fantino said at the press conference. “We will stop at nothing to eliminate offenders. You can run but you can’t hide. We’ll identify you, arrest you and bring you to justice.”

That the chief of the OPP would indulge in that bombast should give us — especially gay men — great pause. Obviously police ought to be dispassionate investigators who stop at the bounds of legally defined civil liberties. Stopping at nothing is for torch-bearing villagers and the Spanish Inquisition. But when Fantino says he’ll stop at nothing he really means it.

This is the same man who in 1994 as the chief of the London police force held a press conference — eerily similar to the one on Feb 12 — at which he posed with some 800 video tapes London police seized from the apartment of a local teacher. The tapes were presented as a huge cache of child porn, evidentiary of a vast organized network of kiddie-diddling enthusiasts.

“This seizure and the resulting investigation will no doubt lead to many cities and towns throughout the province,” read a London police press release then. “Experience has shown us that this serious problem goes well beyond London. It is a widespread, underground connection of individuals who indiscriminately victimize children for their own pleasure.”

Of course in the end the seizure led nowhere. The tapes were not kiddie porn at all. The man was charged with possession of child porn for other materials found in his apartment but those charges were later withdrawn by prosecutors.

It was all part of Project Guardian, a Fantino-engineered witch hunt-cum-public relations disaster that disrupted the lives of scores of innocent men and that proved only that a child porn ring never existed in London.

You would think, as a student of experience, that Fantino would abandon the Malleus Maleficarum approach to justice in favour of more reasoned and precise investigative techniques that do justice to justice rather than to again enlist fear and fiction to fan the flames of hysteria. According to his recently released memoir, though, that’s a lesson that has failed to penetrate into his consciousness through his rather imposing policeman’s hat.

“Organized networks of paedophiles thrive in every corner of the globe,” he writes fervently. “Looking back I think of the entire campaign [against Project Guardian] as the most vile, unfair, unethical treatment of police that I have ever seen in my entire career in law enforcement. What it tells me is that those who influenced the expenditure of taxpayer’s money must have had a sympathetic ear for paedophiles.”

Just listen to yourself, man. You’re obsessed.

I say this time the onus is on Fantino to put his money where his mouth is. If the OPP knows of 205,000 Canadian IP addresses that have been used to traffic kiddie porn, and if Fantino is prepared to stop at nothing to bring offenders to justice, we should therefore expect to see arrests and convictions connected to each of those 205,000 addresses. Let’s see Fantino pursue a quarter of a million child pornography charges this year. I would certainly have more fun writing about that big ball of bullshit than I would covering another dreary election or countering the tiresome whiners who insist that Church St is somehow dying from the prosperity brought on by too many street festivals and too much competition for retail space.