Java with Julian

Two big-name gay groups boycotted last month’s much ballyhooed coffee klatch with police chief Julian Fantino.

“The event is divisive,” wrote the June 13 Committee to the organizers, the gay professionals group The Fraternity.

“A small private coffee party is not suited to the kind of contact that we believe is appropriate with chief Fantino at this time. Rather than offering a public opportunity to seek accountability and raise issues, it seems designed to offer the new chief a chance to establish a support network in the queer community.

The Coalition For Lesbian And Gay Rights In Ontario, celebrating its silver anniversary this year, also refused to attend the Apr 25 event.

About 25 community members did show up to Wilde Oscars, according to Bob Gallagher, executive assistant to City Councillor Olivia Chow. “It was not a time when you could get into the issues,” acknowledges Gallagher (who popped by as a private citizen). “It was a time to meet and greet…. There’s some need for that.”

Daniel Poitras went. He sells necklaces at Church and Wellesley and runs a yearly sit-a-thon on Church St for charity.

“He’s trying to make amends,” says Poitras of the new chief. “I got a good feeling from him. I believe he’s genuine.”

Poitras is more concerned about the beat cops who do the frontline work. “They want to make liaisons with the community. How is that going to filter down to the ranks? We can educate Fantino and the mayor’s office… but how can that education get down to the lower ranks?”

Those who boycotted shared the concern.

“We feel that it is unfortunately ill-timed and inappropriate,” states a letter from CLGRO to organizers.

The group points to the Barn facing a disorderly conduct charge under the Liquor Licence Act because of Naked Night (sponsored by Totally Naked Toronto Men Enjoying Nudity).

“[T]here is already a community-wide process in place (as stated in the invitation) initiated by the 519 Church Street Community Centre, to look at what process, if any, we would be comfortable entering into regarding relations with the Toronto Police Service.

“Given the divergent views both around this particular table and our community at large and the recent police actions against the Barn and TNT MEN, we are not comfortable attending a social event in the belief real issues will be addressed.”

The CLGRO note states that Fantino is more than happy to socialize, but repeatedly refuses to answer the tough questions put to him. That includes queries about Project Guardian, the London kiddie-porn investigation under his watch that actually targeted gay men paying for sex from hustlers.

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