The fonds contains records that document journalist Joseph Couture’s research into the Project Guardian investigation in London, Ontario. The records were created and collected through Couture’s research for articles on the investigation and his four-part docuseries “Trials of London”, which was pr…
1.38m of textual records, 17 photographs: col. and b&w prints; from 9 x 14cm to 10 x 15cm, 42 audiocassette tapes, 5 CD-ROMs, 2 DVD-ROMs, 1 WAVE/MP3 recorder, SD Card, 7 micro cassette tapes, 3 digital micro tapes, 9 floppy disks, 20 VHS videocassette tapes
History / Biographical
On November 11, 1993, a story broke that the London police had discovered a large child pornography ring in London, Ontario. The London Police Force launched Operation Scoop, a major investigation into the suspected organized child pornography ring.
The investigation began after a boy discovered waterlogged videotapes in the Ausable River near Lucan. He brought the videotapes home to his mother who played a tape that contained footage of a young boy engaged in sexual activity with an older man. She reported this discovery to the police and the investigation began. Police searched the Ausable River and found approximately 50 additional tapes. The investigation lasted for approximately 18 months.
In August 1993 just months before the tapes were discovered, Parliament passed the Youth Pornography Law. This new provision of the Criminal Code made it illegal to represent or possess the representation of anyone under the age of 18 or anyone appearing under the age of 18 sexually. The provision also defined child pornography in the Criminal Code. After the law passed, two London men, Gary Gramlick and Thomas Edward Jewell -who were responsible for the recordings- asked a friend to dispose of their videotapes.
The police showed the tapes to social workers, teachers, and teenagers to identify the individuals in the recordings. Many of the boys recorded on the tapes were identified and then convinced to identify the men they had sexual contact with, which was oftentimes in exchange for money, gifts, or a roof overhead.
By the summer of 1994, charges had been laid on approximately 3 dozen men. Just as the investigation was winding down, police arrested a London area teacher in May 1994. They seized over 800 videotapes, 600 photographs, and 200 magazines from his home. As a result of this discovery, a press conference was held with all the seized material featured prominently on the table in front of Police Chief Julian Fantino. Fantino claimed that the problem went far beyond London’s border and urged the provincial government for aid. In July 1994, the Ontario Solicitor General David Christophersen committed to providing additional resources and funds to the investigation. By August 1994, Operation Scoop became Project Guardian, a province-wide investigation. The London Police, Metropolitan Toronto Police, and Ontario Provincial Police forces were all involved.
Throughout the investigation, 2,000 interviews were conducted by the police and approximately 60 men were arrested in London, Toronto, Hamilton, and other cities. About 450 charges were laid, with over 2,600 counts. The charges include various criminal offences, from the possession of child pornography, manufacturing of child pornography, sexual assault, sexual interference, gross indecency, and buggery. The most common charge was obtaining sexual services from a person under the age of 18. Fewer than 10 men were charged with the possession of child pornography. Gramlick and Jewell were sentenced to 10 and 15 years in jail for making and possessing the tapes of boys and teenagers under the age of 18. Jewell faced additional charges for his engagement in extensive sexual contact with several boys under the age of 14, the youngest being 10 or 11. The pornography was not distributed. The London area teacher arrested in May 1994, was charged with possession of child pornography as police found 1 super 8 film, 1 magazine, and several albums of polaroids. Many of the seized videotapes that were displayed in front of the press, consisted of commercial porn, Hollywood movies, HBO, Showtime and Cinemax programs. The child pornography charges were eventually withdrawn, however, he was convicted of hiring underage sex workers.
Through the Ontario Freedom of Information Act, the London Free Press’ Greg Van Moorsel uncovered that the cost of Project Guardian was an estimated $1.57 million. The cost was split between the London Police Service, the Metropolitan Toronto Police, the Ontario Government and the Ontario Provincial Police. This did not include the cost of the social work investigation and intervention, legal aid, incarceration costs, and court costs.
Throughout the investigation, the London Police and the London press continued to frame Project Guardian as an investigation of a large-scale child pornography ring that potentially spanned across the province of Ontario. Some gay activists argued that a more suitable description of the investigation is one that was focused on child exploitation, rather than a child pornography ring. The investigation and its coverage have been criticized for misrepresenting events from the start. Many of the men who were arrested and charged did not know each other and only 2 of them were making child pornography which had not been distributed.
Journalist Joseph Couture lived in London, Ontario since he was 9 or 10 years old. He enrolled at Western University where he met a young woman who was a journalist for the campus newspaper. They co-authored an article on the Project Guardian investigation which was published in Xtra! Joseph continued writing stories for the paper on the investigation, which were read by CBC Ideas’ host Max Allen and various Toronto-based activists. At the time, there were few direct sources of information on the investigation, which drew activists Andrew Sorfleet and Beth Wolgemuth from Maggie’s to London to find out more. Sorfleet and Wolgemuth attended a HALO meeting in London, after which Sorfleet connected Max Allen and Couture. Couture travelled to Toronto to speak to Allen at the CBC offices, which led to Couture’s employment working on the four-part docuseries the Trials of London. The program aired in the fall of 1994 and continued into the winter of 1995.
Scope and Content
The fonds contains records that document journalist Joseph Couture’s research into the Project Guardian investigation in London, Ontario. The records were created and collected through Couture’s research for articles on the investigation and his four-part docuseries “Trials of London”, which was presented by Max Allen on the CBC Ideas program. The records reflect the police investigation into the so-called “child-pornography ring” in the early to mid-1990s, the press coverage, and the moral panic surrounding the investigation. The fonds documents the activism that resulted from the “anti-gay witch hunt” and reflects the obstacles that Couture encountered while investigating Project Guardian. In addition, the fonds contains records relating to the London Police Service, Police Chief Julian Fantino, the Homophile Association of London Ontario (HALO), the Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists. It includes reports, correspondence, clippings, notes, flyers, meeting minutes, court proceedings, victim impact statements, charge sheets, freedom of information requests, and complaints filed by and against the London Police Service and Police Chief Julian Fantino.
2- Charges, Court Proceedings, and Notes
3- Press Coverage
4- Audiovisual Records
The fonds contains records that may be upsetting or triggering to researchers. Some of the records deal with sexual assault, pedophilia, and child pornography. Most of the names of the accused and victims have been redacted from the file level descriptions that have been inputted into the public facing database, in order to protect the privacy of those involved in the investigation.
Pseudonyms must be used when writing about the accused or victims until 2072. Many files are restricted from access, please refer to the file-level descriptions for further details. Researchers wishing to view restricted files must apply for access through The ArQuives.
Most of the paper clips and some of the staples have been removed from the records and have been replaced with paper slips. Textual records have been rehoused in acid-free file folders and boxes. The audiovisual materials have been removed and stored separately for conservation purposes.
The fonds was arranged and described by the Pride Library at Western University. Once the fonds was removed from the university, records were added to the fonds. The records were rearranged and redescribed by The ArQuives’ processing archivist to accommodate the new additions to the fonds. The records that were collected or created by Richard Hudler were removed and placed in its own respective fonds (F0213). The names of most of the accused and victims have been redacted from the file level descriptions inputted into the public facing database in order to protect the privacy of those involved in the investigation.