Today in Canadian Queer History

Operation Soap

Reposted, because whatever progress we (some of us, at least) have made is far from secure.

In 2016 I marked the 35th anniversary of Operation Soapthe 1981 Toronto bathhouse raids that became our “line in the sand“. This was just one in a series of police actions against businesses that were, at the time, a major source of social and sexual connection for gay men.

For many gay men who lived through these raids, the onslaught of GRID/hiv/aids, and many more years of police harassment (if not outright entrapment), the current issue of whether to allow uniformed police officers to march in Toronto’s annual LGBT/Queer Pride Parade is not as cut and dry as it seems to be for some community members. Do we ignore legitimate, ongoing concerns about continued abuse of power to celebrate what progress has been made for some gay white men? As I’m not presently a resident in my home town and not financially able to return for the upcoming Pride celebration, I don’t have to pick a side now.

Oct. 1977 Montreal police raid 2 bathhouses; Mystique and Truxx bathhouse. 144 men charged.

12/09/1978 Police raid The Barracks in Toronto; 23 charged as ‘Bawdy House found-ins’ and 5 ‘Bawdy House keepers’.
06/06/1979 One of the ‘found-ins’ that went public about the raid was charged with Keeping a Bawdy House for his own residence.

10/11/1979 Police raid The Hot Tub in Toronto; 40 people charged.

04/23/1980 Police in Montreal raid; 61 people charged.

Operation Soap
02/05/1981 Police raid four bathhouses in Toronto;
* Club Bath Toronto;
* The Barracks;
* Richmond Street;
* Romans II
@ 286 people charged as ‘Bawdy House found-ins’ and 20 as ‘Bawdy House keepers’;
02/06/1981 3000+ people protest downtown;
02/20/1981 4000+ people protest downtown;
04/21/1981 6 people charged with ‘Living Off The Avails’;
06/28/1981 Protest March as part of Pride Festival includes the first Manifest of the Toronto Order of Perpetual Indulgence, who perform an exorcism at a Police Station;
Nov. 1981 Series of trials, with mixed results.

05/30/1981 Police raid a bath in Edmonton, Alberta; 60 people charged;
06/05/1981 Most plead Guilty and pay fines.

06/16/1981 Police in Toronto raid 2 bathhouses; The Back Door and The International; 21 people charged.

** Sources for most of the above information are listed in my 2016 blog post about Operation Soap.

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