Policed by PR

Fantino's fantasy world could be ours

Like that cute stripper who tells you he’ll let you touch his dick if you stick one more $10 bill in his sock, Toronto’s new police chief designate is a smooth talker. He’ll say what he needs to say and will say it well.

Witness Julian Fantino the day after he was chosen as Chief David Boothby’s successor. His coronation speech was filled with phrases like “progressive,” “inclusive,” “cooperation,” “holistic,” “sharing,” “united front,” and the heartwarming “I intend to seek harmony.” There was also the very useful phrase “perceived problem,” which is a great way to suggest that your opponents failed to read the press release closely enough. If only people listened more to what he says, and looked less at his obsession with race and sexuality, we’d realize that Fantino is nothing short of a saintly social worker.

Though Fantino’s mushy talk is nauseating – he was chosen by conservatives to pursue a law and order agenda – it is also the only bright spot in an otherwise bleak hiring. He takes his public image to heart. Fantino may not be a progressive chief, but he wants to be seen as one.

Rather than call Fantino a liar, then, the best strategy may be to take him at his word. Why measure him by his past – his release of race-based statistics, his pursuit of a fictional child porn ring in London – when measuring him by his grandiose promises could produce better results?

So when Fantino says, “inclusive,” we should assume his intention to recruit more gay and lesbian officers. We will look for openly gay and lesbian candidates on the hiring list and complain if there aren’t any.

When Fantino says Toronto is “diverse,” we might grant him time to come up with policies where diversity includes sexual minorities. Let’s call members of the Toronto Police Services Board to see when those policies are due. Six months sounds fair.

When Fantino says “progressive,” let’s ensure that he teaches his officers that victimless crimes involving drug use and consensual sex are not as important as violent crimes. When he says “joint initiatives,” let’s offer up our names for civilian groups and demand real clout.

Fantino is a can-do guy, backed by the police union. Unlike Boothby, he might actually be able to lead the unruly Toronto Police Service. If he’s promising peace, love and reconciliation, the least the gay community can do is engage him in his promises. Even if it means a tentative kiss, kiss, hug of community participation.

In policing, the gap between what is said and what is done is played out every day. It’s a matter of measuring the distance and holding the boss accountable. And this boss talks big.


History suggests Fantino will be just as mean-spirited at his new job as he’s been in his previous jobs. But if he’s prepared to exert so much effort creating a fantasy to please us, the least we can do is hold him to it.

Here’s my $10, Julie. Show me what you got.

Paul Gallant is Features Editor for Xtra.

Paul Gallant

Paul Gallant is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has appeared in The WalrusThe Globe and Mail, the Toronto StarTHIS magazine, CBC.ca, Readersdigest.ca 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.

Read More About:
Politics, Power, Policing, Toronto, Ontario

Keep Reading

Job discrimination against trans and non-binary people is alive and well

OPINION: A study reveals that we have a long way to go to reach workplace equality for trans and non-binary people

The new generation of gay Conservative sellouts

OPINION: Melissa Lantsman’s and Eric Duncan’s refusals to call out their party’s transphobia is a betrayal of the LGBTQ2S+ community

Over 300 anti-LGBTQ2S+ bills have been introduced this year. This doesn’t mean we should panic

OPINION: While it’s important to watch out for threats, not all threats are created equally. Some of these bills will die a natural death

Xtra’s top LGBTQ2S+ stories of the year

The best and brightest—even most bewildering—stories from a back catalogue brimming with insight