The Fiona Stewart/Jane Doe Storyby Konnie Reich
The case of Jane Doe came to public attention when The Globe and Mail broke the story on March 20 1991.
In November of 1989 the sometime prostitute had picked up then - Sergeant Brian Whitehead of the Metro Toronto Police Force, who forced her, to take him to her residence, where he extorted sex from her despite her protestations, If she did not comply, he threatened, he would have her charged with "communicating in public for the purpose of prostitution, " a summary offense in the Criminal Code of Canada. He had been drinking and his belligerent behavior scarred her. Although in her testimony at the inquiry she did not give this piece of information, but she told her friends, that the assault took place at gunpoint. He noted her phone number and in the weeks that followed, he made numerous harassing calls to her, especially during the night, which seemed to be his favorite time, He demanded, that she turn the answering machine off, because he did not like them. Until Whitehead was apprehended, Jane Doe lived in constant fear of his calls.
She went to internal affairs and a tap was put on her phone. Jane Doe fully cooperated with the investigators and Brian Whitehead was caught in her apartment after a two week investigation on Nov. 22, 1989. The investigating officers did not take a statement, they did not write a report and they didn't lay any charges. Whitehead was never charged with a criminal offense. Instead he pleaded guilty at a Police Act hearing to a lesser charge of corruption and deceit. Jane Doe was never informed of the time and place of these hearings. She was also never told the name of the offending officer. In her absence her sworn testimony was changed (at the insistence of Whitehead's lawyer) without her knowledge.
Her anonymity, that she had insisted on from the beginning, was threatened after the Whitehead story hit the papers. Police Chief William McCormack announced, he would have a news conference on the matter, which included a transcript from the Police Act hearing with Jane Doe's real name. Internal affairs had assured her that they would protect her anonymity but the Police Chief himself was going to break that promise. She had 24 hours to get an injunction to prevent that from happening. Jane Doe was well connected and knew lawyers in the city who got the court order for her. Whitehead was demoted to first-class constable and is still on the Police Force. Jane Doe was about to give up when she heard about the launching of the Junger inquiry.
Constable Gordon Junger was running an escort service with his girlfriend, Roma Langford, a high class callgirl, when he was nabbed in a sting operation on Dec. 5, 1989. It was the secret resignation agreement between the Metro Police Force and Gordon Junger (in which police agreed to withdraw charges and destroy the evidence in Junger's case) which prompted the holding of this inquiry and is central to the recommendations and conclusions in the inquiry's report. Jane Doe's story added weight to the allegations regarding the force's internal investigations and she received standing at the inquiry. This was certainly a grueling experience for her, but as she always maintained, she would not have been able to live with herself ethically, if she hadn't come forward.
The stress that she endured was compounded by the fact that through part of the inquiry she was in a "witness protection program," which isolated her from her friends and familiar surroundings. Witness protection became necessary for Jane Doe when she began receiving repeated telephone threats, including threats of bodily harm and death. The harrassment and threats started when it became known, that Jane Doe had requested standing at the inquiry. One evening during the week of June 24, 1991 she received several such calls. She decided to leave the apartment to visit friends for the night. Upon leaving the building, two men appeared, gripped her by her wrist and led her to a nearby deserted spot, where she was hit and her hair was pulled hard. She was pinned to a wall hit and kicked, both on her legs and in her stomach. The two men ordered her, that she should not testify and that the police would know, she was not testifying, if they saw such a statement in the newspaper. Jane Doe's lawyer was of the opinion, that the timing of the threats suggested the involvement of the Metro Police, as the threats consistently referred to her participation in the inquiry.
In August of 1992 the report of the Junger/Whitehead Inquiry, which was ordered by the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services and headed by Frank D'Andrea,was released to the public. It was a scathing report. The inquiry was concerned with policy and procedure, not with the character or competence of individuals. The panel concluded, that the actions of the Metro Toronto Police Force demonstrated a "tremendous lack of integrity. " After reviewing both cases Frank D'Andrea concluded that the entire internal discipline process -- management, supervision and enforcement of policies and procedures -- is "clearly inadequate." Jane Doe was vindicated by the report and finally received a measure of respect and fairness which she deserved from the beginning.
The panel made 24 recommendations of which the chief claimed that 17 of them have already been acted upon. He never was clear which 17 recommendations he was referring to. Jane Doe's case brought about the implementation of four recommendations, 17-20, which specifically dealt with sexual assault cases and how they should be handled. These changes included insuring the anonymity of a victim, special strategies of support where the accused is a police officer, the assurance that victims will be advised of the progress of disciplinary proceedings and the opportunity to participate in these proceedings. These recommendations are as valid today as they were in 1992.
During the summer of 1992. for the four month period surrounding the release of the inquiry's report, Jane Doe was again placed in the witness protection program. This time she was sent to a different city. The isolation that she experienced only drained her further emotionally. Fiona Stewart/Jane Doe was also my partner for four and a half years. Despite her ordeal, we had a supportive and stable relationship. At times however, there was a lot of tension because it felt as if the cops were running our relationship. It was important for Fiona to keep her personal life as private as possible, therefore she did not feel comfortable to tell the police that her partner is a woman. Consequently, I could not go with her during her second witness protection program because I was not her boyfriend. Fiona was often scared and depressed because the Metro Police Force's actions victimized her over and over again which was frustrating and devastating to her.
Jane Doe's second witness protection program was supervised by the OPP. Officer's would deliver her living allowance, pay the bills for her and check up on her. She practically had to make up stories to explain her strange existence. Her name was slightly changed, which presented difficulties for her. She had difficulties adjusting to a strange city where she didn't know anybody. Her friends were not supposed to know where she was. The only way to keep in touch with her friends was by phone. She usually ran up a big bill. The cops threatened, that she would have to pay anything above the allotted amount, which fortunately never happened, but caused Fiona unnecessary stress.
Fiona's coming forward had scared her for the rest of her life. She never did get justice from the Metro Toronto Police Force and she was not taken seriously because she was a prostitute. Her struggle with the police was watched and discussed by other prostitutes in the city, who had their own response to the recommendations of the inquiry. In September of 1992 a report was submitted to the Metro Police Services Board, written by a prostitutes group, outlining the treatment of prostitutes. As well, it included a list of demands that, if followed, would have some impact and ease tension between police and prostitutes.
In her other life Fiona Stewart was a highly-respected and courageous housing activist. She was a founding member of the Robin Gardner-Voce Non-Profit Homes. (Voce was a woman who died under mysterious circumstances after she had complained to police of being raped by two officers.) Fiona's concern was for those on the margins of society. She served on a number of boards of directors, including the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations, Metro Tenants Legal Services, the Harbourfront Community Centre and the Harbour Channel Housing Co-operative where she lived. For a short time she was a manager in a co-op for people living with HIV. She was also the coordinator of the Affordable Housing Action Group where she advocated for affordable housing and tenants rights. To her friends and colleagues, Fiona was known, as somebody who always conducted herself thoroughly professional. Fiona had overall board room savvy and she was a well connected woman in the community.
On October 19, 1996 Fiona died of natural causes at the age of 34. Her untimely death saddened her many friends and colleagues.
The last six years had certainly taken a toll on her life. She invested two years of her life to a cause that she believed in, but in the end, was it worth the personal sacrifice? In Ontario there is now a structure in place for victims of sexual assault to press charges -- even against a police officer. The ability to submit a Victim Impact Statement for the judge to consider, when sentencing the assailant is just one such change that is a direct result of Fiona's struggle. On the other hand, Fiona leaves us with the knowledge, that systemic injustice is alive and well on the Metro Police Force, and officers clearly guilty of misconduct, receive less than a slap on the wrist.
For me personally, I'm proud of Fiona for having the guts to take on the Police Force. I have always been critical of police. Now that I have seen close up what dealings with the police can do to a woman, this has become a very sensitive issue for me. I know, if it had not been for that incident in 1989, she could have been a very different woman. More importantly, Fiona would still be alive.
Fiona's remarkable courage is an inspiration to many of the friends she leaves behind who will carry on her struggle against systemic injustice, especially at the hands of police. Fiona, rest in peace.
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Created: January 20, 1997|
Last modified: February 14, 1999
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