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Your health & safety in Fantino’s hands?

His overreactions could suspend your rights

Outgoing Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino looks like he’s about to land a plumb appointment as the province’s Commissioner Of Emergency Management, a position created in April 2004 to oversee how Ontario responds to various crises.

Considering Fantino’s poor record of respecting civil rights, working cooperatively, treating minorities with respect, taking recommendations from experts seriously and staying calm in a storm, it isn’t easy finding people who think it’s a good idea.

“It is hard to understand why the government is considering this appointment since Fantino has a bad record,” says Tom Warner, chair of the Coalition For Lesbian And Gay Rights In Ontario (CLGRO). Fantino would “bring a storm trooper mentality to government emergency services.”

National queer lobby group Egale Canada has sent a letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty arguing that Fantino should not get the appointment.

NDP MPP Marilyn Churley has a problem with the process. The commissioner position becomes available at the end of this month, as James Young, the doctor who was Ontario’s first such commissioner, leaves for a job with the federal government.

“Our basic premise it that this is a very, very important and powerful position,” says Churley. “There should be an application process inviting all qualified individuals to apply.”

The commissioner oversees the province’s emergency planning and preparedness, monitors on-going emergency situations around the world in order to respond if a similar situation happens here, leads the development of regulations to implement emergency management and reviews existing laws and regulations to ensure that the government has all the powers and tools necessary to respond to a wide range of potential emergencies.

For Churley, Fantino’s lack of medical experience isn’t his only drawback.”Fantino is too opinionated about many things and he becomes defensive and angry when his position is attacked,” says Churley. She points to his recent anger over the settlement struck between the Toronto Police Services Board and Pussy Palace organizers to avert a battle over the women’s human rights complaint. The deal, along with a cash settlement, called for more police sensitivity training around queer issues. Despite the deal and a damning court ruling, Fantino has never apologized for the 2001 raid, which saw male officers stomping through a women-only sex party.

Earlier this month, he attacked critics who complained that the police have not done enough to meet recommendations on how to deal with sexual assault cases, calling them “assassins.”

Gay men might want to imagine how Fantino would use his power against, say, bathhouses, if there was an outbreak of a sexually transmitted disease.

Warner cites a number of instances where Fantino has abused his powers as police chief in London, Ontario and Toronto in relation to gay and lesbian people, as well as other minorities. There was the London “kiddie porn ring” which was neither a ring nor about kiddie porn, but which resulted in needless arrests, suicides and destroyed lives among gay men in London and Toronto. There was the release of race-based police statistics. Now he might have access to controversial health information.

“During his tenure as police chief more extreme measures have been used by police in Toronto to control demonstrations,” says Warner.

Warner also cites Fantino’s continuous denial of racial profiling by the Toronto force even after the extensive Toronto Star exposés of recent years.

McGuinty is expected to make a decision soon.