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The debate over Julian Fantino's handling of the blockades has taken place in a strange vacuum in the mainstream press. Fantino's disregard for civil liberties in this case is not an isolated incident but rather is characteristic of much of his policing career.

In Ontario, Fantino's campaign against political dissent has been building for years. Fantino has been at the forefront of implementing the ''law and order'' political agenda, complete with racial profiling, while [he was an] inspector at 31 Division in North York, and the singling out of gay men for special surveillance, while chief of London's force.

Fantino has long targeted direct-action groups like the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (a group in which Shawn Brant played an important part) for harsh repression. Having implemented the violent policing of demonstrations in Toronto in March of 2003, he sought mandatory one-year sentences for anyone convicted of any activity taking place at a political demonstration. The other part of Fantino's plan, requiring any protesters to pay a ''damage deposit'' upfront, was clearly directed at eliminating protests by poor people who have no resources available to pay such a deposit.

This is the context in which Fantino's treatment of Shawn Brant and his allies must be understood.

- Dr. Jeff Shantz

Department of criminologyKwantlen Polytechnic UniversitySurrey, British Columbia