My record speaks for itself

Many names have been tossed around as potential replacements for outgoing Toronto Police Chief David Boothby. But none so much as the name of York Region Police Chief Julian Fantino. A quick recap of his words and deeds.

On how we love him

Fantino to Xtra in April 1994: “I would like to believe that as a professional person I have had a very good working relationship with the gay community.”

REALITY CHECK: By 1995, T-shirts were circulating in London’s gay community with Fantino’s photo and the text: “Swap. Uniformed, smooth talking puppeteer and whiner suitable for donut shop, guard duty, travel, etc.”

On kiddie porn

Fantino told the Toronto Star in August 1994: “You’ve heard me talk about my long term interest in pornography, especially child pornography. This is not an isolated case. The more you look at it, the more pervasive it is, the more shocking it is. It’s mushrooming. It’s growing.”

REALITY CHECK: Despite spending more than $1.57-million on Project Guardian, the kiddie porn investigation by London police, Fantino never uncovered any child pornography ring. By the end of the investigation, which ran from November 1993 to December 1995, almost none of the kiddie porn charges stuck – despite arrests of more than 60 men. Two men were sentenced to 10 and 15 years each in jail for videotaping youths over 14 masturbating and performing fellatio. A handful of men were charged for consensual anal sex with youths aged of 14 to 18 (the age of consent is 18 for anal sex; 14 for other kinds of sex) or paying teenage hustlers for sex – different issues altogether. One suspect, Buryl Wilson, lost his job as a school teacher under allegations of possessing child pornography. All porn charges against Wilson were withdrawn after two years of being investigated. Wilson was convicted of hiring underage prostitutes.

On equality

In April 1994, when accused of targeting gay men with Project Guardian, Fantino replied: “I don’t really want to differentiate between the gay community and anyone else. I regard all citizens as being the same and entitled to equal treatment under the law.”

REALITY CHECK: Of more than 60 men who were charged under Project Guardian, all but two are believed to be gay.

On targeting homos

In the spring of 1995, Fantino admitted that London police asked for a list of members of the Homophile Association Of London Ontario (HALO): “We never received the list, we never pursued it….”

REALITY CHECK: “…But yes, the issue of the list was spoken about in the context of helping us identify one or more persons who were portrayed in some aspect of the investigation.”

On being scrutinized

In a July 1999 Toronto Star interview, Fantino criticized the province’s Special Investigation Unit, which looks into bad police behaviour: “This is not working and no amount of money is going to fix it.”

REALITY CHECK: Back in December 1994, London Police Services Board member Andy Stevens called for a body like the province’s Special Investigations Unit to “investigate [Project Guardian] and find out what the status is.” And the SIU has laid charges against at least one of Fantino’s York Region officers.


On building bridges

In February 1995, Fantino told The London newspaper, Forest City News: “The people who are voicing these concerns are the very people who have generated the negative criticism, supposedly connecting us with a certain sexual preference by certain people in our community. I couldn’t care less what sexual preference prevails out there.”

REALITY CHECK: The evil people turn out to be the media. Fantino complains to then CBC president Perrin Beatty in a July 1995 letter about CBC radio coverage of Project Guardian: “Is this the best possible use of our tax dollars…. Are these fanatical agents of the CBC accountable to anyone? What is the ultimate purpose behind broadcasting this perverted propaganda?”

Paul Gallant

Paul Gallant is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has appeared in The WalrusThe Globe and Mail, the Toronto StarTHIS magazine,, and many other publications. His debut novel, Still More Stubborn Stars, was published by Acorn Press. He is the editor of Pink Ticket Travel and a former managing editor of Xtra. Photo by Tishan Baldeo.

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