Last edited: November 06, 2004

Rae Warns Against Bathhouse Charges

Argues Relations with Gay Community Would Be Undermined

Toronto Star, September 21, 2000
Ontario Canada

By Ashante Infantry, Toronto Star Staff Reporter

Filing Liquor Licence Act charges against organizers of a lesbian bathhouse night visited by police last week would undermine relations between police and the gay community, city Councillor Kyle Rae says.

The politician’s initial concerns over whether participants would face bawdy house charges have given way to disbelief upon learning that police are considering laying charges of disorderly conduct under the Liquor Licence Act.

"I got calls today and yesterday from residents’ associations saying they are stunned that the police have time to be bothered with this kind of issue when they have got crack dealers operating in houses next door to them . . . and we have not been able to move them out because we do not have the police resources to deal with that.

"Yet, we are able to find five officers to go on a panty raid at a women’s pub," Rae told a city hall news conference yesterday.

Last Thursday, five male plainclothes officers entered the bathhouse at Carlton and Mutual Sts. about 1 a.m. and spent at least two hours conducting a room-to-room search and questioning women.

Superintendent Aidan Maher, who commands downtown’s 52 Division, confirmed charges were pending.

The organizers’ lawyer, Frank Addario, said police will face "a really big fight" if the charges are laid.

"The Liquor Licence Act is really a refuge for a police officer who has gone into a bathhouse and now is faced with a quandary (when) there’s no criminal offence that he or she can prosecute," Addario said.

"This was a safe, friendly environment. No one was being degraded or dehumanized, and therefore it would be very hard to describe this as disorderly conduct," he said.

The premises, which normally operates as a men’s bathhouse, is not licensed to sell alcohol, but organizers received a special occasion permit for the event.

The possible disorderly conduct charges relate to alcohol allegedly consumed in areas of the bathhouse not covered by the permit.

"There are hundreds of special occasion permits issued every day in this city, so we have to question why they would choose this particular one to investigate," said organizer Janet Rowe, adding she was unaware of any liquor violations having occurred.

"Our women report feeling intimidated, violated and humiliated by this experience," said Rowe.

"For us, it remains to be seen whether this was just a few rogue cops who decided that they would get their kicks out of raiding a women’s bathhouse, or if this is a new policing priority that is being set.

"This has seriously strained our relationship with police, particularly at a time when (Chief Julian) Fantino says he wants that relationship to improve through the establishment of a community liaison committee," she said.

Rae, the city’s only openly gay councillor, found it curious the incident occurred days before a prearranged meeting between police and members of the gay and lesbian community to form a liaison committee.

"Each time we move closer to making a breakthrough in improving the relationship, there are rogue cops who wish to undermine that.

"The officers in uniform have got a great reputation in working with our community," Rae said.

"(But) I think some of the male undercover officers in 52 Division are offended that the gay community have these institutions where straight people don’t."

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