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Toronto Police Services Board drops surveillance investigation

The Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) has halted its investigation into the 1990s wiretapping and surveillance of former TPSB chair Susan Eng and queer activists George Hislop and Peter Maloney.

“The Board has enquired into the circumstances underlying the allegations [of Eng],” stated TPSB in a press statement dated Nov 15. “Based on its enquiries the Board is satisfied that Ms Eng was never the subject of a judicial authorization obtained by the Toronto Police Service for the interception of private communications.”

Eng denounces the TPSB’s lack of concern in regard to the alleged surveillance. “The Board has failed in its mandate to ensure proper oversight and has misread public attitudes about what standards we expect of the police,” says Eng. “The public is far less tolerant of police invasion of our privacy, even in a post 9/11 era, and even less tolerant of any abuse of police power.”

The TPSB statement did not mention the Toronto police report documenting police surveillance of Hislop and Maloney that was leaked to the media last spring.

“I am disgusted by the surveillance conducted on George and Peter, especially as it was of their political activities and particularly their criticism of the police,” says Douglas Elliot, longtime lawyer for Hislop. Hislop died in 2005. “I thought that kind of behaviour had gone out with McCarthy…. It was gross abuse of police power.”

“Public attitudes toward gay activism have shifted entirely,” says Eng. “The revelation that Peter had been followed to public events where he advocated for police accountability in relation to their treatment of the gay community is now received as a discredit to the police rather than as support for their cause.”

Although current TPSB chair Alok Mukherjee recently told the CBC, “I am not under any fear that I or any other board member am the subject of a wiretap or surveillance anymore,” Eng remains unconvinced.

“How can we be sure they are not doing it still?” she asks. “They have no protocols from preventing it from happening again. When allegations surface… and they don’t even take steps to investigate it how can we be assured that this is still not happening?”

Toronto police chief Bill Blair, who was asked by TPSB to report on how this matter was leaked in May 2007, says he was unable to find the source of the leak. That matter has also been dropped.