Gerald Hannon: a chronology of events

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This chronology was developed by Rick Bebout with the help of Rachel Giese,who prepared an earlier version for the November 27 press conference.

November 21, 1977
Gerald Hannon's article, " Men Loving Boys Loving Men," a look at the lives of three men who have sex with younger men and boys, is published in Issue 39 of the gay liberation journal, The Body Politic.

December 22-27, 1977
In five separate items over six days, one an editorial titled "Bawdy Politic" and two of them columns by Claire Hoy ("Our taxes help homosexuals promote abuse of children," Dec 22, and "Kids, not rights, is their craving," Christmas Day), The Toronto Sun attacks the article and The Body Politic. Hoy does not quote from the article, saying "It would be inappropriate here, in a family newspaper, to repeat the words of these child rapers."

December 28, 1977
On CITY-TV news, Hoy says he's spoken to members of the provincial cabinet, urging action against the paper. On CTV news the same night, Attorney-General Roy McMurtry says he is "appalled" by the article "as described in news reports" (whether he himself has read it is not clear), and that it will "set back the cause" presumably the inclusion of sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination in the Ontario Human Rights Code, a cause McMurtry is known to oppose.

December 30, 1977
In a story headed "Crown to study sex mag," the Sun reports that the Morality Bureau has consulted the York Crown Attorney's office about laying changes. At 5 pm, on a Friday before a long weekend, five officers conduct a three-and-a-half-hour search of The Body Politic's office. At the scene lawyer Clayton Ruby offers police admission of any evidence they might request related to pending charges. The offer is refused: officers take away 12 cartons of material, including subscription lists.

January 5, 1978
The Sun publishes another editorial, titled "Depravity" and calling The Body Politic "a crummy, dirty publication without a redeeming feature." Later that day charges are laid under Section 164 (now Section 168) of the Criminal Code (use of the mails to distribute immoral, indecent or scurrilous material) against the paper's not-for-profit publisher, Pink Triangle Press, and its three officers, Ken Popert, Ed Jackson and Gerald Hannon.

Gerald Hannon, Ed Jackson, Ken Popert, May 1982

January 2, 1979
The case comes to trial in Provincial Court. Claire Hoy appears as a prosecution witness. Milton, Ontario fundamentalist minister Ken Campbell, also a Crown witness and an advocate of "Socratic" learning, is asked if he's aware that Socrates was a well-known pedophile. Campbell answers that if Socrates were to apply today for a teaching position in Halton County, he should certainly be refused. In six days of testimony only one item - a copy of Issue 39 - is entered into evidence by the Crown.

February 14, 1979
Pink Triangle Press and its officers are acquitted. The Body Politic later reprints "Men Loving Boys Loving Men" in its March/April issue, along with "Another Look" at child-adult relations, exploring feminist critiques, issues of social power, consent, coercion, and protection vs control of young people.

February 14, 1979
In a post-acquittal press conference, Ed Jackson responds to a question about grants. [The Toronto Sun had run three pieces by Claire Hoy, one titled "It's a case of shoddy politic(s)" and one editorial ("Bawdy politics") following an October 1978 Ontario Arts Council grant of $1,650 to The Body Politic, given despite political pressure on the council.] Jackson says the paper has no applications pending, but that "as a member of the newspaper community in Ontario we certainly will [apply]." Gerald Hannon notes earlier Ontario Arts Council grants and says application will be made again as usual. There is no further discussion of grants of any kind.

February 15, 1979
The Toronto Star reports the verdict with a top-of-page-one banner headlined: "Now give us Wintario cash, Body Politic says." After a complaint of misrepresentation, Star managing editor (and now Toronto Sun publisher) Hartley Steward tells Pink Triangle staff member Rick Bébout that they had been "victims of headline-ese."

February 16, 1979
The Star runs a bottom-of-page-two correction: "Body Politic not seeking grant." In the same issue the Star runs an editorial titled "Tolerance is not public support," saying "the response of the publisher, Pink Triangle Press, in announcing that they now feel entitled to a Wintario grant from the government in order to reprint the offending article, is provocative rubbish." The Body Politic launches a libel suit.

March 6, 1979
The Crown appeals the February 14 acquittal. Faced with the prospect of a long appeal battle, The Body Politic drops its suit against the Star. In February 1980 the Crown will win an order for retrial. That order will survive appeals taken by The Body Politic all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

May 31, 1982
Pink Triangle Press and its three officers are tried for the second time on the same charge. On June 15 they are acquitted again. Clayton Ruby says the ruling clarifies that "It is perfectly legal to advocate what in itself would be unacceptable to most Canadians."

In The Toronto Sun, Claire Hoy calls the June 15 decision "sick." Rev Ken Campbell, Crown witness in 1979 but not in 1982, says "I can see that someone in the Ontario government is out to deny the fundamental human rights of homosexuals and [The Body Politic's] right to publish for them."

July 13, 1982
The Crown launches an appeal of the second acquittal. A number of newspapers, including The Globe and Mail, editorialize against the decision. The appeal is eventually rejected in County Court.

October 15, 1983
With lapse of the deadline for a final Crown appeal, the case ends in victory for The Body Politic, more than five years and nine months - and $100,000 in legal bills - after it began. The last of the material seized from the paper in December 1977 - none of it ever entered into evidence at trial - is finally returned April 15, 1985.

July 8, 1994
In Xtra, also published by Pink Triangle Press (which had ended The Body Politic's 15-year publishing history in 1987), Gerald Hannon reviews journalist Judy Steed's book, Our Little Secret, a look at child-abuse cases in Canada. Hannon, interviewed by Steed for the book, says she "has let pity and outrage run away with her senses, and has produced a book that takes as its premise the notion that sexual contacts between children and adults can never be ethical. ... It seems as silly to condemn it out of hand as it would be silly to condemn an adult male for coaching a children's hockey team." He opens the review by saying, "There is really only one interesting question concerning the relationship between children and adults. It is this: How do we determine what constitutes ethical behaviour?"

January 1995
A deal to distribute Steed's book as a fundraiser for the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) falls through. The deal was cancelled after heated debate within NAC over its economic feasibility, and allegations that the book was homophobic.

March 11, 1995
In a major investigative piece in The Globe and Mail, called "The kiddie-porn ring that wasn't," Gerald Hannon analyzes the London, Ontario police's Project Guardian, which had charged 45 men under the August 1993 "child-pornography" law. Hannon calls the case "a police-constructed moral panic," presenting evidence that charges were trumped up. Even a London police superintendent, Hannon reports, "said he regretted the misinformation that continued to fill police press releases long after they were aware that kiddie porn was not the issue."

May 1995
London police chief Julian Fantino files a complaint with the Ontario Press Council over the Globe article.

November 9, 1995
The Ontario Press Council upholds Fantino's complaint, saying that the piece should have been labelled as opinion, not analysis. Colin MacKenzie, deputy managing editor of The Globe, says, "We accept the ruling but would like to underline that the facts of the story were not successfully challenged and we continue to stand by them."

November 11, 1995
Speaking at a panel on an unrelated topic at the Canadian Association of Journalists' Women In Media conference, Judy Steed criticizes John Miller, chair of Ryerson Polytechnic University's journalism department, for employing Gerald Hannon on contract as a part-time instructor. Steed says a number of students and faculty had told her they were concerned about Hannon's presence on staff. Miller, in the audience, stands up to dispute her statements.

November 14, 1995
Toronto Sun columnist Heather Bird, also present at the November 11 conference panel, argues in a piece called "The professor of desire" that Gerald Hannon has used the classroom to "proselytize." "Recently," she writes, "Hannon was taken to the Ontario Press Council over an article he wrote about how the London police investigated allegations of a child sex ring. He used his trip to the press council to springboard into a classroom discussion on his beliefs. ...there has been an impact on the young people who, despite his charismatic personality and obvious writing talent, are profoundly unsettled by his beliefs." Bird quotes one student, anonymously. (Hannon's "headline-ese" promotion from part-time instructor to full professorship will continue in future stories, including one broadcast November 27 on the CBC-TV National news.)

November 15, 1995
In a story headlined "Journalism teacher's essay sparks probe," The Toronto Sun reports that Ryerson administration will investigate Hannon's teaching practices.

November 16, 1995
The Sun reports on comments made by Hannon on a talk-radio program, under the headline "Prof backs adult-kid sex." "The issue came to light after Toronto Sun columnist Heather Bird revealed that Hannon condones intergenerational sex.' ... The Ryersonian, the university's newspaper, printed a front-page story yesterday strongly supporting the professor."

In a Toronto Star story ("Ryerson journalism instructor under fire for teen-sex stand"), Judy Steed is reported to have "said she wasn't calling for Mr. Hannon's head but wants a public discussion on what universities should do about professors who, in her view, advocate harm in the name of freedom of expression."

The London Free Press runs a Canadian Press wire story headlined "Teacher in trouble for pro-pedophile essay," preceding it with: "He's the journalist who wrote an article for a Toronto newspaper criticizing London's Project Guardian probe into child exploitation."

Toronto Star: Ryerson probing teacher's conduct on child-sex view

The Globe and Mail: Ryerson journalism instructor under fire...

November 17, 1995
The Sun runs a photo of Hannon with the caption: "Prof scoffs: Ryerson journalism professor Gerald Hannon is amazed his views on intergenerational sex with children have become the talk of the town.'" The story below is headed: "Prof defends kid-sex views." In another story the Sun reports that Don Obe, acting chair of Ryerson's journalism department, supports Hannon. "Nobody is going to fire this guy [the line is used as the article's headline] - over my dead body."

November 18, 1995
Heather Bird opens her Saturday Sun column, titled "Prof pushes a perverse idea," with: " Sex before eight, or it's too late. And that, friends and neighbors, is the motto of NAMBLA, the North American Boy Love Association. Its views on adult-child sex coincide with those of Gerald Hannon."

The same day in a letter appearing in The Globe and Mail, Judy Steed says that Hannon "states his support for the North American Man Boy Love Association, whose motto is Sex before eight or it's too late.'"

November 19, 1995
Gerald Hannon and Heather Bird debate on CBC-TV's On The Line.

The Sun reports on the debate in a story headed "Kid-sex prof stands ground," again noting that "The controversy over Hannon's teaching at Ryerson began with a Bird column in the Sun on Nov. 14."

November 21, 1995
Hannon replies to Judy Steed's letter with one of his own to The Globe, saying that "I support the existence of the North American Man/Boy Love Association, the way I would support any organization that uses legal methods to change laws and attitudes. 'Sex before eight or it's too late' is not , however, the motto of NAMBLA. It is the motto of the René Guyon Society, and it is one with which I thoroughly disagree."

In a story headed "Police sex squad probes professor," the Sun reports that the Metro police Special Investigative Services unit, formerly the morality squad, has Hannon under investigation for comments he made during the televised On The Line debate. He is reported to have "watched a man having sex with a 12-year-old boy." The incident in question is in "Men Loving Boys Loving Men" published exactly 18 years before. In her column in the same issue of the Sun, titled "A question of morality," Bird argues that Hannon participated in a child sex assault.

Don Obe and Judy Steed debate on TVO's Studio 2. Steed casts Hannon as a dangerously charming member of the "pro-pedophile lobby" and reads a graphic description, not from Hannon, of an eight-year-old being brutally fucked face-down on a carpet. This, she says, is what Gerald Hannon advocates.

Toronto Sun: Letters

November 22, 1995
The Eyeopener, a Ryerson campus paper, reports that "None of Hannon's 26 students have ever complained about him. Quite the opposite, many of his students have voiced strong support for his right to hold these views, no matter how controversial."

November 23, 1995
Glenn Wheeler reports in Now, "Gay journalists desert Hannon," saying that there has not been "any public support from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association - Canada." Association co-chair Jessica Pegis says there's a "fear of the (pedophile) label. It's not necessarily rational - it's a panic reaction." Xtra ("Journalist under police investigation: Toronto Sun spearheads attack on Ryerson professor") reports later news that the association has released a statement supporting Hannon. The story also says that "The Sun's Bird told the Ryersonian that she kept phoning students until she found one who agreed to criticize the professor (anonymously)." Greg Boyd writes in eye weekly that "Over the past week The Toronto Sun has labored mightily to get a teacher fired. ... The Sun has begun to function more like a weapons system than an organization that gathers information. Once pointed at a target of sufficient moral turpitude, it is programmed to hammer away until the evil is eradicated."

November 24, 1995
Metro police drop their investigation of Hannon, saying there is not enough evidence to pursue it. Det-Sgt Chris Hobson says that given the length of time since the incident, there is "a question of whether the public interest would be served by pursuing a criminal investigation at this time." (See Toronto Sun: COPS DROP INVESTIGATION OF TEACHER, Nov 25, 1995.)

November 25, 1995
The Saturday Sun carries a front-page, three-inch-high headline: "Ryerson Prof: I'm a Hooker." In a "lengthy and startlingly frank conversation" reported on page 5, Gerald Hannon says, "I'm high-spirited about my prostitution." The article carries a photo from Fuse magazine of Hannon in bed with a younger man, an autobiographical scene in Nik Sheehan's film Symposium. Hannon had been interviewed long before by Sheehan in Xtra about his career as a prostitute.

On page 12 of the same issue of The Toronto Sun, Heather Bird says, "You've got to hand it to him. That Gerald Hannon is one provocative old bugger. Once again, the libidinous adventures of Mr. Hannon, Esq., are making front-page news." The piece is titled "Ryerson silence is telling." Bird writes, "It is time to move on from the eccentric professor and address the larger issue of the university and its reputation. Do taxpayers want to sponsor an institution which supports (by default, anyway), these views? ... The institution will be judged by the company it keeps. And, make no mistake, Ryerson's national reputation is on trial here."

November 26, 1995
In a press release issued at 7:12 pm Sunday night, Ryerson Polytechnic University president Claude Lajeunesse announces Gerald Hannon's suspension, with pay, "pending an investigation into recent media statements related to his alleged conduct and activities." Vice president of faculty and staff affairs Michael Dewson says that "Mr. Hannon is to have no contact with his students and will not be permitted on campus without my authorization or that of the Dean of Applied Arts."


November 27, 1995
The Toronto Sun reports "Ryerson suspends its prostitute prof." The Toronto Star heads its story "Embattled professor suspended by Ryerson." The Globe and Mail says "Ryerson suspends teacher in prostitution disclosure."
[Note: Last link above led to file with no data. RB / 17/5/97]

At noon, Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3904 files a grievance with Ryerson on Hannon's behalf, citing that no time limit was set on the suspension, that it preceded a disciplinary inquiry, and that there were no grounds for such an inquiry because there had been no complaints from Ryerson students or staff.

Gerald Hannon and supporters call a 1:00 pm press conference at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (also long subject to Toronto Sun attacks for using public funds to promote gay expression). Those speaking in Hannon's support include journalists, academics, two of his students, union officials, and a representative of the Writers Union of Canada. Gerald Hannon himself speaks at length, making it clear that he will continue to express his views and carry on his private life without apology, and saying that he believes there's no subject that cannot or should not be discussed in a university classroom.

The story gets major coverage on all local broadcast outlets and on national TV news. Michael Dewson of Ryerson says in interviews with a number of stations that there are limits to academic freedom. On TVO's Studio 2, Gerald Hannon is asked if this uproar might not "set back the cause."

November 28, 1995
All three Toronto dailies run substantial stories growing from the press conference. The Sun runs a page 1 photo captioned "Prostitute Prof Unrepentant" and puts beside it a quotation from Heather Bird's column, "Hannon not the real victim," on page 11 of the same issue: "You can cloak it in academic freedom and freedom of expression arguments all you want, but responsible adults will continue to express revulsion at suggestions that adult-child sex, pedophilia or, legally speaking, sexual assault is ever beneficial."

Bird's column, not for the first time, casts Hannon as hungry for media attention, saying that at the press conference he "descended the staircase a la Norma Desmond ... ready for his close-up" and "adopted the demeanor of a wounded virgin yesterday, an innocent under vicious attack for no apparent reason. No one at this newspaper has ever advocated firing or suspending him. He should never have been hired in the first place, given his views on pedophilia and his moonlighting." In The Toronto Star story ("Suspended Ryerson prof files grievance," with a photo captioned "Battling back"), Judy Steed compares Hannon with Ernst Zundel, who denies the Holocaust took place, and says "There are lots of crackpots out there with extreme views; we're not obliged to give them teaching jobs in public institutions."

The Sun's page 5 story ( "Prof defended, damned," [Note: Link led to file with no data. RB / 17/5/97] with a photo of Hannon captioned "Hooked on media"), reports "positive response from several students to an opinion piece" in a Ryerson campus newspaper that calls for the "delousing" of the journalism department.

Run with the story is a small boxed item: "Racial shock prof off hook," reporting the end of an Ontario Human Rights Commission complaint against Philippe Rushton of the University of Western Ontario. Nineteen people had complained of Rushton's views on race, and their expression in the classroom, in 1991.

Also on page 5, Sun columnist Christie Blatchford, in a piece titled "Ryerson gutless in handling of Hannon," says that "The school, it seems, has been intimidated by the publicity surrounding Hannon and the mewling discomfort of all decent folk everywhere in defending freedom of expression when the speaker keeps saying such darned outrageous stuff." The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail both run editorials questioning Ryerson's decision. The Globe says that "Mr. Hannon is a man of ethics - not everybody's ethics, but consistent ethics nonetheless - and sees no reason to hide his private identity. If his detractors are successful, hiding will be the only option left for those with controversial views." In his Globe column, titled "Gerald Hannon's conduct," Michael Valpy opens with Socrates, "found guilty of corrupting the youth of Athens" and sentenced to death, but with history declaring "his judges wrong, guilty of killing the greatest hero of freedom of thought." He ends: "Mr. Hannon ... teaches in an adult setting whose purpose is to encourage debate, discussion and challenge. Does freedom to philosophize, however unpopular, necessarily undermine society and conventional morality? Or is a good society impossible without freedom to philosophize?"

November 29, 1995
"Hooker prof flouting law: Minister." The Sun reports that "Ryerson professor and self-confessed prostitute Gerald Hannon is promoting lawlessness by advocating sex with underage boys, Education Minister John Snobelen says. ... Snobelen said Hannon ... is flouting the law by making extra cash as a hooker and by condoning sex with minors. My understanding, to start with, it's against the law. Personally, I couldn't condone it." What "it" is here is not made clear. The story also reports that "Ryerson heads have decided to keep mum until their two investigations are over," and that a man had been charged November 25 with uttering death threats against Gerald Hannon. The Sun's editorial on page 10 is titled "Mum's not the word." "Just one more thing about Gerald Hannon," it begins. "Would all those making the free-speech argument on his behalf have been as enthusiastic if this were an issue of, say, a university knowingly hiring a professor with the views of Philippe Rushton? ... What's that we hear? Is it silence?" Gerald Hannon's story "as they used to say of the dead parrot on Monty Python, isn't dead yet, it's just resting. ... Is the free speech argument here that a university, a tax-funded institution, is above all criticism when it comes to its hirings and that once someone is hired he can say whatever he likes? ... Well, we disagree. Free speech, and Hannon, will survive."

November 30, 1995
In a Globe and Mail column ("Sometimes, defending freedom of speech stinks"), Bronwyn Drainie says, "I was prepared, if canvassed, to hold my nose and support Gerald Hannon's right to teach out his part-time contract. ... That was up until last Saturday ["Ryerson prof: I'm a hooker"]. Hannon turned a serious issue of free speech into a farce. ... He has forced me to think through my own limits of tolerance, and they stop right at his nose. ... The decent thing would be for him to leave quietly at the end of this term and make a monetary settlement with Ryerson. But somehow I don't think decency is in Hannon's bag of tricks." Hannon's response to the editor of the Globe went unpublished. David Hayes, a fellow instructor in journalism at Ryerson, also wrote a reponse to Drainie that was published in a newsgroup on the Internet. In it he challenges a number of her assumptions and assertions: "I guess this whole affair could take care of your ethics curriculum for the entire year, if you let it, Bronwyn."

On the same day, Dr Joyce Lorimer, President of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) sent a letter on behalf of that organization to the president of Ryerson, Claude Lajeunesse, outlining that organization's complete rejection of any investigation or suspensio

[Truncated in original. See Jeff Lindstrom's Hotlist: The Gerald Hannon Case for continuation of the chronology to Jan 26, 1996. RB / 17/5/97]