Toronto Lesbians, Police Reach Settlement
Network, December 17, 2004
By Christopher Curtis
SUMMARY: The raid of a lesbian bathhouse party in
Toronto, Ontario, has led to an unprecedented settlement by the city’s
The raid of a lesbian bathhouse party in Toronto,
Ontario, has led to an unprecedented settlement by the city’s police
The settlement stems from an incident that took place on
Sept. 14, 2000, when police raided a special event called the Pussy Palace,
which attracted 355 nearly naked women.
The Toronto Women’s Bathhouse Committee filed a human
rights complaint, claiming in part that two female police officers checked
inside the bathhouse for liquor violations, and then five male officers
entered and lingered in private areas.
Several of the committee’s members filed a $1.5 million
Police charged two organizers with three counts of
permitting disorderly conduct and six liquor violations, even though the Pussy
Palace had been granted a special liquor permit.
Several officers named in the complaint said they had
launched the raid after anonymous complaints surfaced alleging drug use,
physical violence and sexual activity.
In 2002, Judge Peter Hryn of the Ontario Court ruled the
defendants’ privacy rights had been breached in a situation that did not
require urgent police action.
During the defamation trial that followed, Judge Janet
McFarland of the Ontario Superior Court declared, “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.”
Under the terms of the settlement, the Toronto Police
Service will pay $350,000 to a group of lesbian complainants, and all current
and future Toronto police officers—including police chiefs—will have to
undergo gay and lesbian sensitivity training.
The agreement is expected to be finalized Friday.
When the settlement was reached, both the human rights
complaint and the lawsuit were dropped.
“It feels like the end of a very long journey,” J.P.
Hornick, one of the complainants told Canada’s Globe and Mail. “It has
been a grueling process. On a personal level, I would have to use the word
“The larger battle here is for the police to understand
the community they serve,” Hornick went on to say. “That is the most
important and exciting part for me.”
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