He's an old-school cop, and by that I mean that for him policing is about power and throwing one's weight around. None of that namby-pamby liberal pabulum like community policing, reaching out to minorities and that kind of nonsense: might makes right. He has always been a hyper-macho loudmouth, a swaggering bully who likes to let people know who's in charge.
Fantino first came to public prominence as a staff inspector back in 1989, at a period when Toronto cops were embroiled in controversy over the shooting deaths of two Black men
In the natural course of events, Staff Inspector Fantino became Toronto's police chief in 2000. Unsurprisingly, the usual suspects loved the guy. During his tenure, he maintained a poor race relations record, axed community liaison committees, opposed civilian and even Special Investigations Unit oversight, and demanded that antiwar protesters should be required to obtain police approval to hold rallies. Particularly memorable in the latter connection was his statement at the time that "a problem is now arising where portions of the public believe that Dundas Square is a public space."
A raid on a lesbian club by a number of his officers in 2000 ended with the charges tossed and their behaviour excoriated by the presiding judge. Despite that, city councillor Kyle Rae, who had dared to utter public criticism of the cops involved, was successfully sued for libel. Fantino had nothing to say about the behaviour of his troops.
(Legal action cuts both ways, of course. Between 1998 and 2005, the City of Toronto had to shell out $30,633,303.63 to settle lawsuits against the Toronto police. More than 8,000 cases. Yes, you read right.)
After not having his contract renewed by the City, Fantino was made OPP Commissioner in 2006 by Premier Dalton McGuinty. You just can't keep a good man down.
Now, thanks to an Access to Information request that has allowed transcripts of a questionable wiretap to be made public, we learn that he played a potentially catastrophic role during the June 27, 2007 Aboriginal Day of Action.
The Crown's desperate moves to keep this information under wraps is a story in itself. Having lost the first round, it managed to get an ex parte ruling in its favour, overturned a mere hours later after the judge found that "
Well-known Mohawk activist Shawn Brant, and a group of supporters, had blockaded Highway 407 in Deseronto. The transcripts reveal that Fantino blundered into that situation like a bull in a china shop, sidestepping negotiations that were already under way, blustering and threatening Brant in his trademark manner. The evidence indicates that the OPP were within minutes of moving in, their snipers at the ready. The protesters, however, removed the blockade peacefully, preventing what could have become another Ipperwash.
But Premier Dalton McGuinty is standing by his man:
I’ve always had a lot of confidence in Commissioner Fantino. That confidence remains.
He has performed heroically, arguably under some of the most difficult circumstances when it comes to our province’s relationship with our aboriginal communities....How nice to have friends in high places. But not so nice for Native people. And not for any Ontario citizen, in fact, who values civil liberties, accountability and transparency in our police services.
We don't need this kind of paramilitary, accountable-to-no-one, authoritarian and frankly dangerous style of policing in 2008. We never needed it, but now is the time to put a decisive end to it.
Julian Fantino, for the good of Ontario, step down.
*Reader James Goneaux points out that Donaldson was 45 years old: a youth only relative to me. In Lawson's case, the laws of physics were suspended, and the officers charged in the case walked:
The jury agreed that the stolen vehicle driven by Lawson was approaching the officers head-on in a life threatening manner and that their actions were justified.
An autopsy conducted by the Ontario Coroner's Office showed that the teenager was struck by a hollow point bullet to the back of the head. This type of bullet was considered illegal at the time, as ‘hollow point bullets’ were not authorized for use by police officers in Ontario. [emphasis mine--DD]