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2011 in review: gay bashings

Stats Canada reported that gaybashing was up for the third consecutive year

Max Claude told Xtra he had trouble hearing after a man broke a glass bottle over the back of his head. Credit: Rob Salerno

This has turned out to be a very violent year, one in which we saw an alarming number of gaybashings, one shooting and the murder of one gay man in Toronto. Coupled with some high-profile court cases from 2010 that finally made their way to verdict, we covered a lot of anti-gay hate crimes in 2011.

 
With Statistics Canada reporting sharp increases in the number of reported hate crimes for the last three years, we can only hope this is a trend that will change in 2012.
 
Our year of bashings got off to an ugly start when former city council/mayoral/Canadian Alliance leadership candidate Enza Anderson claimed over Facebook on Jan 20 that “teens of terror” from Toronto’s Jarvis Collegiate Institute were throwing slushies at gay and trans Village residents in Glee-style attacks. The TV hook inspired national mainstream news coverage, which even the victims seemed to think was a bit much.
 
On the plus side, the whole affair brought attention to the issue of anti-gay violence and even led to a forum for students at Jarvis to talk about homophobia in their school.
 
Just two days later, Ryan Lester and his brother Ben were gaybashed in the Mehran Restaurant on Church St by two men who were harassing them and calling them “faggots.” Eoin McManus and Benjamin McCall were caught by police after fleeing the scene and were charged with assault and mischief. The attack was classified as a hate crime.
 
On Feb 24, 45-year-old Mark Scott was found guilty of assault causing bodily harm after bashing a lesbian couple in Oshawa in 2008. He was handed a four-month sentence and one year of probation on May 31. Judge Mulligan, however, disagreed that the attack was a hate crime, instead saying it was the culmination of several disputes Scott had had with the couple.
 
University of Toronto accountant Allan Lanteigne was murdered in his home on Ossington Ave March 4. Police have no leads and have not identified any possible motives.
 
Justice moved a little quicker in the case of a gaybashing outside Vancouver’s Tinseltown movie theatre that occurred Oct 8, 2010. By March 22, Michael Anton Hostland of Port Moody, who’d been charged with one count of assault, was approved for alternative sentencing measures. Dustin James Sciog of Fort St John was charged with three counts of assault and pleaded guilty April 21. He was given a suspended sentence and forced to pay a $50 victim surcharge and write a letter of apology.
 
York University students banded together against violence that appears rife on campus after a lesbian staffer, Valerie Boustros, was gaybashed as she attempted to use the women’s washroom at Winters College’s Absinthe Pub. Three men were captured on video but never identified or arrested. In the wake of the assault and other high-profile cases of on-campus violence at York, students called on the school to address security issues on campus and implement a mandatory anti-oppression and equity course for all students.
 
Later that month, Jon Chaisson claimed that he was gaybashed on the Toronto subway between King and Queen stations. While assault charges were filed against Collin Dillon, an eyewitness disagreed with Chaisson’s account of the incident and claimed Dillon himself was the victim of aggression. The matter is still before the courts.
 
Meanwhile, in London, Alex Myros pleaded guilty to simple assault in a bizarre case in which the presiding judge not only determined it wasn’t a hate crime, but that the victim was a con artist who had preyed on a desperate man. Brandon Wright had promised Myros cash and a modelling career in exhange for performing a sex act in a hotel.
 
Shawn Woodward, whose brutal assault on Ritchie Dowrey in Vancouver’s Fountainhead Pub in March 2009 left Dowrey with a permanent mental disability, lost his appeal of his hate-designated conviction May 28. He is still serving his six-year jail sentence.
 
Shortly after Statistics Canada released its report showing an 18 percent increase in reported hate crimes from 2008 to 2009, 1 Girl 5 Gays panellist Max Claude was attacked with a glass bottle outside Toronto’s Panasonic Theatre on June 7. He says he still has difficulty hearing from one ear. 
 
Halifax drag performer Chris Cochrane was shot in her apartment June 14. Two men yelling “tranny faggot” tried to enter her apartment around 1am and shot 10 bullets inside when Cochrane tried to stop them. Halifax police told Xtra they were not investigating the case as a hate crime, although they believe that Cochrane was targeted.
 
On June 17, a jury found Stephen Lambert and Michael Allard guilty of assault and robbery in the vicious bashing of Chris Rabideau in May 2010. The two men were sentenced to 36 months in jail plus 24 months on probation.
 
On June 23, a BC judge accepted Alexandre Tchernychev’s guilty plea to assault causing bodily harm in the case of a gaybashing on Davie St in July 2010. The 22-year-old Tchernychev received 18 months probation on a suspended sentence.
 
In late July, Brian Payette claimed corrections officers at North Fraser Pretrial Centre in BC insufficiently protected him when a fellow inmate allegedly gaybashed him in his cell. The attacker, Mark Andrew Sarsfield, was charged with assault.
 
Meanwhile, another Windsor gaybashing case from May 2010 wrapped up with John Raymond Meloche being found guilty of assault causing bodily harm and given a suspended sentence and 18 months probation. Meloche punched a 24-year-old gay man in the face in a Pizza Pizza, breaking his nose and several bones around his eye and causing nerve damage. The judge gave Meloche credit for his volunteer work, saying he led an “exemplary life,” except for this one time when he broke another man’s face. 
 
In the early morning of Oct 9, Travis James Johnston, who was holding hands with another man, was attacked by a group of men shouting homophobic slurs. One man hit him in the face with an umbrella, cutting open his lip and chin. Sunjeet Singh Minhas has been charged with assault with a weapon and uttering threats.
 
The case of Alexandra Flanagan, who had gone missing from her home in Barrie in July 2007, came to a conclusion when police arrested Andrew Keene and recovered the last of Flanagan’s remains. Keene is charged with first-degree murder and indignity to a dead body. The case is not believed to be a hate crime.
 
A queer student at Toronto’s Seneca College was attacked and had his neck slashed by a fellow student who shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him. Daniel DaSilva, 21, was arrested shortly after and charged with one count of assault with a weapon.
 
We hope to see a reversal of the trend of increasing violence against queer people in the new year. If you are a victim of gaybashing, it’s important that you talk about it. Contact the police right away and also contact Xtra. Reporting these attacks is a key part of making sure they don’t happen again.