See Part One: Project Scoop. Without scoping "Scoop," nothing which follows will make much sense.
Scoop becomes "Guardian"
As the investigation progressed, some local gay activists alleged that the police in London, Ontario were using the initial discovery of child pornography to scapegoat homosexuals. The investigating officers, for their part, fanned the flames both with some of the more bizarre charges, noted in part one, and by asking HALO, a local gay and lesbian organization, for their members list in connection with the investigation.
After arresting a local teacher, London's then police chief Julian Fantino held a press conference. His prop for the occasion: 800+ videotapes confiscated from those arrested, and mostly from the teacher. The headlines, predictably, presented these as potential child porn.
In fact, none of the new, confiscated tapes contained illegal material. Once again, only the first two men arrested in Project Scoop had any connection to child pornography. The teacher would be convicted not of child porn or the molestation of children, but of paying teenage boys for sex. Understandably, he would resign from his job.
But shortly after that press conference, Project Scoop became the provincially-funded Project Guardian. It has to be noted that the transfer of the investigation to the province meant that the police collected for hours of overtime which the city of London had been unable to pay. Still, many of the men arrested had broken the law. Why should a cloud of suspicion hang over an operation that did successfully prosecute thirteen men, two for particularly offensive crimes?
"If this were a case involving young girls being prostituted... there would be great outrage."
Shortly after Project Guardian got underway, Jeffrey Gateman, a London police officer, faced allegations that he had anally raped a 17-year old female prostitute. As he acknowledged some involvement with the girl, he was demoted, but initially, faced no charges. The Crown was reluctant to prosecute since, they believed, a prostitute was not a reliable witness. After some time had passed, Gateman was charged. Later still, an officer who had worked on Project Guardian was charged with the sexual touching of a teenage girl. Again, neither the police nor the media gave the case more than the attention usually reserved for allegations of sexual impropriety involving a younger, but post-pubescent, person. It's difficult not to notice the discrepancy between the way these cases were handled, and the manner in which police and media approached Project Scoop/Guardian, most of whose defendants faced similar charges involving teenage boys.
In October, 2004, almost a year after Scoop's "Child Porn" story broke, police from the London Vice Squad raided what was billed as a massage parlor, but was in fact a front for prostitution, and employed teenaged girls. It went by the name " ExecuStress." The owner, William Buffet, faced and was ultimately convicted of charges relating to sexual exploitation and the prostitution of a minor.
On November 1, 1994, the London Free Press, after months of giving front-page coverage to Scoop/Guardian, ran a one-paragraph story on ExecuStress in the paper's B-section. The headline? "Man faces sex counts."
A list of clients was seized during the raid. At least one former employee of ExecuStress alleges that prominent men were customers (Trials of London 4), and that this fact kept investigators from probing further This allegation has never been confirmed. What can be stated with certainty is that no attempt was made to track down and prosecute ExecuStress's customers, as was the case in Project Scoop/Project Guardian.
Imbalance in Justice?
Is this, as some people have argued, homophobia at work? Or do we simply value our teenage boys more than our girls? A 1990s investigation by London's Family Court found that sentences for those convicted of sexually abusing boys tended to be longer than those given to people who sexually abuse girls. (Trials of London 1) Other factors must be examined. Perhaps the police responded to the public pressure created by the words, "child pornography"-- a pressure absent from the ExecuStress and Gateman cases. And the police force may have been motivated from within, as well.
When Julian Fantino accepted the job as London's chief of police, he never moved his family, nor his permanent address, from Toronto. He openly lobbied to be Toronto's top cop while he served in London, and eventually earned that position (he has since become Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, and his record has been impressive). Could he have been motivated by the demands of justice and the desire for visibility? Such an allegation cannot be proven, but given the oddities of this case, the possibility has to be mentioned.
The men convicted under Project Guardian broke the law; two of them committed particularly heinous crimes. They cannot claim to be victims but, for whatever reason, they faced an appalling double standard in the implementation of justice.
Fallout, or, What does this have to do with me?
At a London "Straight Pride" march organized in 1999, several marchers carried signs referencing Project Guardian and the "Homosexual Child Porn Ring." Traditionalist Women's Group R.E.A.L. Women of Canada, in a 2000 newsletter, summarized the story by declaring that London police had broken up a gay child porn ring, and that the claim of harassment is an example of homosexuals not wanting "to be treated the same as everybody else by being made responsible for their unlawful actions." Without defending the men who were convicted, it rather seems that homosexuals weren't being treated like everyone else, but not in the way that R.E.A.L. Women allege. These two references to Project Guardian also demonstrate that the public perception of the operation has become wedded to the notion of a Child Pornography Ring, even though only two of the men arrested had any connection to the production or possession of such material.
To this day, ask many a Londoner and they'll vaguely recall that a child porn ring operated here in the 1990s, and the several men went to jail for molesting little children. Some grumble about the lightweight sentences received by most of those convicted. The misleading perception has become the dominant public one.
Now, ask yourself again: what do you know regarding events about which you've learned through the media? Through official statements?
Local events? National? International?
Without question, actual criminal offenses led to London's Project Guardian. The process, however, raises troubling questions about how police investigate crimes and how the legal system prosecutes them. And it raises equally-disturbing questions about the media's coverage of events, and the manner in which public perception can be influenced and shaped.
Joseph Couture, Max Allen. "The Trials of London." Ideas. October 7, 14, May 11, 14, 1994. CBC Radio. Transcripts at www.walnet.org/csis/news/london_94/abouttrials.html
John Greyson. "After the Bath." Rough Cuts May 6, 1995. CBC Newsworld.
Gerald Hannon. "The Kiddy Porn Ring That Wasn't." The Globe and Mail. March 11, 1994.
John Herbert. "Child Porn Bust in London may be largest in Ontario." The London Free Press A1, A3, November 11, 1993.
"Girls as young as 8 filmed in sexual acts with men, police say." The London Free Press B1. November 24, 1993.
"Man faces sex counts." The London Free Press B1. November 1, 1994.
Bob Massacur. "Child Protection queried as sex videotapes seized." The London Free Press November 12, 1994.
R.E.A.L. Women of Canada. "Toronto Police Fail to Enforce Laws Breached by Homosexuals." REALity #6, Nov.-Dec. 2000. http://www.realwomenca.com/newsletter/2000_Nov_Dec/article_8.html
Jane Sims. "Sifting through the garbage London cops' grim task." The London Free Press A1. November 13, 1994.
Vern Smith. "Cops, gays, and videotape." Eye Weekly. June 22, 2000. http://www.eye.net/eye/issue/issue_06.22.00/news/cops.html