Monday, February 14, 2000

Richard Mackie
Queen's Park Bureau

Fantino attacks judges, politicians over crime

Urges crackdown on porn, young offenders

TORONTO — Incoming Toronto police chief Julian Fantino yesterday castigated judges and politicians who render unpopular decisions on issues such as child pornography, to the enthusiastic applause of hundreds of delegates at an Ontario Progressive Conservative policy convention.

"I believe, with all due respect, that some of our judges and policy-makers should get a reality check on life itself," Mr. Fantino said. He was referring to the controversy over a British Columbia ruling invalidating sections of the child-pornography law.

The high-profile case is now being considered by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Mr. Fantino also told the Tories that there needs to be an all-encompassing crackdown on child pornography and on young offenders, that organized crime is a major threat and responsible for many of the small crimes that plague neighbourhoods, and that society should be battling violent video games and policing the Internet.

Premier Mike Harris praised Mr. Fantino after the speech. "You have challenged us to be more effective in all areas of crime and crime prevention." He added, "We want to thank you for stimulating us to even greater action."

A former head of the London police force, Mr. Fantino is to take over as Toronto's police chief on April 3.

Mr. Fantino, who also is president of the Ontario Chiefs of Police and is the departing chief of the York Regional Police, defended his appearance before a partisan political gathering. He said he is non-partisan and wanted to deliver his message that the police need more resources and community help to fight crime.

One of his major concerns, he said, is to "repatriate policy-making to elected officials, the intent being to curtail the extraordinary and unreasonable encumbrances, demands and impositions on the administration of justice as a direct result of Supreme Court decisions."

The fight against child pornography is being undermined by a lack of determination on the part of judges and legislators to stamp it out, Mr. Fantino said.

"Not too long ago, Canada became the laughingstock of nations following the British Columbia court's decision in the child-pornography case that brought into question the entitlement, the right it has been said, of an individual to possess child pornography," he said, referring to decisions by a lower court and by the B.C. Court of Appeal in a case of a man possessing child pornography.

According to Mr. Fantino, the court's ruling suggested that possessing child pornography is "a constitutional right for Canadians. I say to that, 'Gimme a break.' " More enthusiastic applause greeted this remark.

Mr. Fantino complained, "This kind of strange form of [jurisprudence] brings the whole system of justice, I believe, into question. I believe it also should do that."

He argued, "Even Third World countries are more civilized and conscientious about our duty as adults to protect the most vulnerable components of our society, our children."

The crime is not an innocent one, he said. "There could not be child-pornography material anywhere, under any circumstances, without direct victimization or otherwise sexual exploitation of one of the most vulnerable components of our society, our children."

And there should be no debate about the issue, with people defending sex between adults and minors, he said. "We should also be able to sanction those who publicly advocate the entitlement to engage children in sexual encounters."

Mr. Fantino criticized the Young Offenders Act and the legal system for not being tough enough on those under 18 who commit crimes.

He argued in favour of "the need to hold young people accountable for their criminal conduct, including trials in adult court for those involved in particularly violent occurrences."

The list of offences that can be shifted to adult court should be expanded, he said. "I believe one other aspect of crime that needs to go there is break-and-enters into dwellings, which are particularly traumatic to people."

Mr. Fantino criticized the federal government for dragging its feet on changes to the Young Offenders Act, a favourite complaint of Mr. Harris and Attorney-General Jim Flaherty. "Appropriate criminal-justice-system amendments are long overdue respecting serious crimes committed by young people," he said.

"Although recent numbers from Statistics Canada indicate that youth crime is on the decline, it must be evaluated in the context of the fact that over the last 10 years, youth violent crime in Canada has actually increased a staggering 77 per cent."

Laws and policing alone will not combat crime by young people, he said. More must be done to prevent children from developing criminal and violent traits, he said.

"We must provide stable, nurturing environments for our preschool children. What it takes is investment in early-childhood development from government and the private sector."

Over all, he said, Canada is failing in its fight against crime. "Worldwide, Canada has a reputation as a country that is soft on crime, and those who come here from elsewhere to pursue their criminal opportunities truly have very little to fear."

He added, "South of the border, for instance, Canada is seen as a sort of strainer leaking from a thousand holes. … A place where crime really does pay."

More resources must be put into the battle against organized crime, Mr. Fantino said. "Organized criminal activity is invisible for the most part. However, there is a direct connection between many crimes that take place in our neighbourhoods and the activities of local criminal organizations."

He said, "The best example is the drug dealer, who targets our children in schoolyards and in communities, who [is] directly connected to the hierarchy of organized crime."

Mr. Fantino warned that "the money-laundering and credit-card-fraud activities of the organized criminals may seem to have little impact on us as individuals. However, the effects on the Canadian economy are potentially devastating."

To make police more effective, Mr. Fantino said, political leaders should "focus attention on the glorification of violence as portrayed in the media, especially violent video games which have been fashioned to replicate killing simulators, very similar in fashion to the like of those used by the military in the training of soldiers in the skill of killing."

He also wants political leaders to "regulate the Internet-service providers to ensure controls and accountability are in place respecting the distribution of child-pornography materials, hate propaganda, and other forms of criminal activity."

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Created: February 18, 2000
Last modified: January 19, 2001
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