January 19, 2007

Fantino on irresponsible driving

Julian Fantino, current Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner (chief), former Toronto Police chief, former Ontario Commissioner of Emergency Management, and key supporter of Ontario's pit bull ban during that law's committee hearings, has decided to focus his police force, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on an all-out effort to end senseless highway tragedies.

I have no problem with his new approach (with the exception of cancelling the always charming Sergeant Cam Woolley's reports). The problem I have is that, in two very similar scenarios, his choices are alarmingly different.

During the committee hearings into Ontario's proposed (and eventually passed) changes to the Dog Owners' Liability Act, it appeared that the former Toronto Police Chief's testimony regarding the dangers police officers faced from "pit bulls" was one of the primary persuading arguments in favour of the new legislation. Purporting to represent the entire force, despite my own conversations with individual officers who thought the law was silly, Fantino presented a strong authority figure whose arguments could not be disputed without appearing to be anti-police.

Here are some quotes from his testimony:

"Many people consider these dogs to be wonderful house pets. But I can tell you from our experiences that these dogs are used as weapons."

"These are not cases where pit bulls have been in the home as the family dog; rather, as I've already mentioned, these are cases where pit bulls have been trained to guard the home and attack intruders, including the police. In reality, they have been trained to attack and are being actively used as weapons. In these cases, our tactical officers on the emergency task force have had to retrain in order to deal with these dogs, and they do so on a regular basis."

"Our emergency task force officers say that, on average, one in four of the warrants they execute is at a place where there is a pit bull."
Fantino's full presentation before the committee can be found here.

Even though he stated multiple times that he was specifically referring to dogs owned and trained by criminals, he seemed more than happy to support a law that targeted hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Ontario dog owners.

Now compare his comments above to his quoted comments from a Toronto Star story about the OPP's new approach to road safety:
"Every one of these collisions was preventable, every one the tragic consequence of inappropriate driving behaviour. I found we were focusing in certain areas when we should be looking at all the areas that contribute to diminished traffic safety. And that's what we're trying to do here."

"I believe that in the hands of an irresponsible person, a motor vehicle is no less dangerous than a loaded firearm in the hands of an equally irresponsible individual. In reality, the potential trauma is tragically similar and the consequences equally unacceptable."
I would like to point out to Mr. Fantino that, if he simply changed all the words "collisions", "driving", "traffic", and "motor vehicle" to "dog bite incidents", "dog ownership", and "dog", he would find himself arguing in favour of strict responsible dog ownership laws and higher penalties for infractions. He would not be able to blame the dogs, as he did in the past.

He would be forced, by his own words here, to lay the blame solely at the feet of irresponsible owners.

The full Toronto Star story can be found here.

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