Toronto
5 min

At least they’re all better than Mel

Candidates say cops should lay off consensual sex

IS THERE A WIZARD AMONG THEM? The mayoral candidates would have an easier job in Emerald City. Credit: Louise Muretich

In a series of editorial panels this month, Xtra chatted up the top mayoral candidates about queer topics. Aside from learning that David Miller has walked in Paris’ Pride, we also learned that John Tory lives on the edge of the gay village but is seldom bothered by the noisy drama here. And yes, Barbara Hall does talk really slow. In 75 minutes, she clocked in about 3,400 words compared to Miller’s 5,900 in 60 minutes and Tory’s 8,000 words in 60 minutes. Here’s an edited version of our conversations.



ON ISSUES DEFINING THE QUEER COMMUNITY



BARBARA HALL

Same-sex marriage is a new right and in the short term probably escalates hate and discrimination, but ultimately will reduce it. There’s still work to be done around benefits and change of laws. There are still a lot of challenges for young people in terms of coming out and being out in a safe way and in being able to live their lives and go to school and feel safe. I think there are some pressures that are very inner city urban issues around drugs and violence.



DAVID MILLER

For Church and Wellesley issues, I hear a lot about street crime and safety issues. I hear that anti-gay activities are on the upswing and that’s unacceptable. I also hear that people are very proud of the same-sex [marriage] decision. I certainly am. One of the things I think about – that nobody’s really captured – is that it defines Toronto as the most cosmopolitan city in the world.



JOHN TORY

Many of the challenges are the same that other people face with respect to finding affordable housing, making sure they have adequate community facilities, public transit. There might be issues where there are different layers, so for example, under crime, there would be a subset that would have to do with queer youth, violence that they would be facing. There would be the criminalization of some of the activities in terms of the bathhouses. There’s been a lot of progress made on a lot of the other issues.



ON POLICING SEX, PARTICULARLY IN BATHHOUSES



BARBARA HALL

You make sure that sexual activities occur in places that are safe, so there aren’t other issues involving youth, involving drugs, involving other kinds of activity that warrant police involvement. You always need to be vigilant that education programs [for police] are in place, that a strong ongoing liaison relationship is in place. You do the education up front and you get officers prepared to respect certain boundaries. In some areas, the [Toronto] Police Services Board could implement policies on what or what not activities are to be pursued.



DAVID MILLER

I think you can negotiate protocols with the police and then enforce them. I think police should be policing real issues. When there’s open drug dealing, they should be policing that. What you need is a police services board to take responsibility, be strong enough to say to the police and the chief that these are the policies, you’ve got to enforce them and then following through when there’s a problem. Philosophically, what people do in private is their business. I don’t want a police regime running around checking out people’s sex lives.



JOHN TORY

The first thing that should be happening if there’s some concern that arises is that police should be sitting down and having a chat about it rather than marshalling all their resources to go out and conduct a raid and the rest of it. Somebody might argue that in other cases you don’t get that warning, but given what the establishments [bathhouses, porn theatres, bars] are and given that the activity is consensual, it makes sense. The police might argue back to anybody saying, “Enforce this law but not that one or enforce that one a little differently,” but to me it’s the job of the police service. You don’t have to go to the backroom to figure out how many people are in a bar. The backroom’s the backroom.



ON PRIDE



BARBARA HALL

Part of the city’s economic development strategy is to make sure events like Pride are successful. And that means working with the organizers to see what that involves. It could involve funding. But it could involve funding other things.



DAVID MILLER

We should wrap the Pride flag around City Hall entirely and do everything we possibly can to support it. It’s an investment. It’s an investment in ourselves and our communities.



JOHN TORY

I was the first candidate to come forward and say that the decision taken by council not to extend [SARS funding to Pride] was wrong. I maintain it should be an annual thing, not just when there’s an emergency. We should be making a bigger investment.



HOW WILL YOU MAKE TORONTO LESS PURITANICAL?



BARBARA HALL

By supporting artists and cultural groups. By pursuing education opportunities to help all communities get to know each other and understand issues. By doing the kind of physical land use planning that is conducive to healthy communities. I don’t think we want cookie cutters. We want to create opportunities for people to live and play and flaunt who they are.



DAVID MILLER

Philosophically, we should enforce the modern character of Toronto. Bars being open later, not enforcing the pot laws, recognizing that people can have fun – I’m generally supportive of. If we are going to go to bars open later, we need to find a way to channel some money from that to public transit so you can run the subways for safety reasons.



JOHN TORY

I don’t treat it as a priority. There are so many other things we have to deal with in the context of a new deal for Toronto that I would say frankly are more urgent.



CHURCH ST RESIDENTS VERSUS PARTIERS



BARBARA HALL

There’s tensions in big cities, and I think we need to understand that every area doesn’t need to be identical. When I supported the rezoning around the entertainment district, for example, you had people who said you couldn’t have people living in areas where there were clubs. There are parts of the city where you wouldn’t want to put late night clubs and there are other areas where you could probably create enough balance.



DAVID MILLER

That’s a conundrum. Residents are entitled to a voice, but when you’ve got an area that’s a mini entertainment district, you’ve got to respect the nature of it. I could give you some platitudes about how you need to work things out, but I don’t know how to resolve that one. You need fun things to do in every neighbourhood.



JOHN TORY

If it’s seen as the entertainment district for the gay community, then we should try to make sure we establish a reasonable balance. I think if you said there should be 25 nightclubs here, there’d be a problem. But it sounds like it may be tipped a bit over, quite deliberately, onto the side of saying there will be [no new dance clubs]. That may be putting the gay village at a disadvantage. Having the traffic come from the clubs also helps some of the other businesses stay alive.



WHAT’S YOUR IDEAL PLAN FOR MAPLE LEAF GARDENS (asked before Loblaws announcement)?



BARBARA HALL

Maple Leaf Gardens is an iconic building in Toronto and across Canada. Since the facade will be protected [under the proposed Loblaws plan], I am happy to see it evolve into a use that will honour the old structure while revitalizing the area.



DAVID MILLER

My preference is that it should stay a hockey rink. We need to preserve it as much as we can as a whole building. They always say that heritage buildings are best preserved with the same or similar usage. That’s why a sports or concert venue to me is the number one choice.



JOHN TORY

Taking a building with that history and turning it into a big box store doesn’t sit well with me. I’d say we’re selling ourselves short. We can do something more. We have a history over time of finding ways to accommodate multiple purposes of buildings like this, either that we want to preserve or because of their location, should be something special.