Toronto Police to Face Gay-Sensitivity Training
‘Vindication’ All officers will be taught under
settlement in lesbian bathhouse case
and Mail, December 17, 2004
By Kirk Makin, Justice Reporter
TORONTO—All current and future
Toronto police officers will be given gay and lesbian sensitivity training
under an unprecedented settlement of litigation that erupted after a
controversial bathhouse raid in 2000.
The Toronto Police Service will also pay $350,000 to a
group of lesbian complainants, The Globe and Mail has learned. The money will
go toward specific charities and to cover legal fees.
The unique settlement ends one of the most controversial
events in the fitful history of relations between Toronto police and the
city’s thriving gay community.
Under the deal, everyone on the 7,260-member force—from
rookie constables to the chief of police—will be required to take training
that pays particular attention to searches involving the gay, lesbian and
The agreement was approved in camera by the Toronto
Police Services Board yesterday and is expected to be finalized today.
The settlement of the civil suit will not be complete
until it receives court approval.
“It feels like the end of a very long journey,” said
J.P. Hornick, one of the complainants. “It has been a gruelling process. On
a personal level, I would have to use the word vindication.
“The sensitivity training will happen at all
levels—not just officers on the beat, but the top brass as well,” Ms.
Hornick said. “The larger battle here is for the police to understand the
community they serve. That is the most important and exciting part for me.”
On Sept. 14, 2000, several police officers raided a
special event known as the Pussy Palace, a lesbian bathhouse, in which 355
scantily clad women were gathered.
When the party was in full swing, two female police
officers first slipped inside to check for possible liquor violations, then
quickly summoned five male officers.
The officers allegedly entered private rooms and lingered
in areas where the patrons’ nudity was most evident, including “the sling
room” and “the photo room.”
Complainants alleged that their feelings of violation and
intimidation were akin to being strip-searched.
The Toronto Women’s Bathhouse Committee launched a
human-rights complaint, and several of its members also initiated a
$1.5-million class-action lawsuit.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission announced last fall
that it would hold a rare public hearing into the incident—apparently the
first time police had faced a hearing over alleged misconduct in carrying out
The inquiry could have taken up to two years and involved
testimony from dozens of witnesses.
As part of the pending settlement, the complainants have
agreed to drop the human-rights complaint and their lawsuit against the
Toronto Police Services Board.
Hart Schwartz, director of legal services for the rights
commission, said last night that he could not comment on any settlement until
it has been finalized.
A lawyer for the complainants, Frank Addario, said he was
not authorized to comment. Lawyers representing the police were also
unavailable for comment.
Held under a special liquor permit, the Pussy Palace
party was the fourth such event to bring lesbians together “to have fun and
explore sexuality in a safe and supportive environment.”
Police charged two organizers with six liquor violations,
including three counts of permitting disorderly conduct.
In 2002, Judge Peter Hryn of the Ontario Court stayed the
charges, ruling that the defendants’ right to privacy had been seriously
violated in a situation that involved no urgent police action.
Madam Justice Janet McFarland of Ontario Superior Court
later charged a jury at a defamation trial connected to the raid, stating:
“It is no part of a police officer’s job to breach the Charter of Rights
of any citizen. To do so is misconduct of the most serious kind.”
Several officers named personally in the complaint told
the rights commission that they mounted the raid after receiving two anonymous
complaints alleging drug use, physical violence and inappropriate sexual
Ms. Hornick said last night that she attributes the
agreement to a new atmosphere on the services board created by Mayor David
“Things have changed dramatically under Mayor
Miller,” she said.
“Before this, there was a real reluctance by the police
to look at themselves.”
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