December 13, 2010
Open Letter re: Richard Dyde
York researcher Richard Dyde killed himself on December 9th. It was the day after police named him and 56 others in connection with Project Sanctuary, their child pornography probe.
We have serious grounds for questioning the legitimacy of this probe. In past years, Ontario police departments have launched similar investigations – Project Guardian in London, Project Truth in Cornwall, among others –that were later revealed to be little more than opportunistic sex scandals. Often relying on dubious allegations and perjured evidence, many of the cases related to these investigations collapsed in court. No matter: a witch-hunt mentality prevailed, jobs were lost, families and reputations were destroyed, and several men likewise took their own lives.
Police have admitted to journalists that one of the most inflammatory charges Dyde faced, “making child pornography,” may actually refer to “putting it on a different type of medium.” Does this mean saving a downloaded jpeg as a pdf? This blurring of crucial distinctions seems calculated to foster hysteria, not informed opinion.
We do not know the specifics of Richard Dyde’s case. All we know are the screaming headlines, which presumably drove him to take his life. All we know are sickening feelings of déjà vu as we witness a police force trafficking in maximum sensationalism, a complacent mass media cashing in on the frenzy, and a legal system perpetuating and enforcing questionable laws that equate representation with physical molestation. The public identification and shaming of these men, before any court process, is an intolerable injustice of which Richard Dyde is only the most recent victim.
Mary-Louise Adams, associate professor, Kinesiology and Health, Queens University
Brenda Cossman, professor, Sexual Diversity Studies, University of Toronto
Richard Fung, associate professor, Faculty of Art, OCAD University
John Greyson, associate professor, Film, York University
Gerald Hannon, writer
Peter Kingstone, artist/lecturer
Gary Kinsman, professor, Sociology, Laurentian University
Tim McCaskell, writer/activist
Matt Mills, editorial director, Xtra
Alan Sears, professor, Sociology, Ryerson University
Rinaldo Walcott, professor, SESE OISE University of Toronto
Tom Waugh, professor, Film, Concordia University
For more information, check out the facebook group Citizens concerned about Project Sanctuary.