Sexual orientation
1 min

Bill Siksay marks the anniversary of the bathhouse raids

Bill Siksay rose during member's statements before QP today and marked the anniversary of the bathhouse raids in Toronto.

Mr Speaker, Feb 5 was the 30th anniversary of police raids on four Toronto bathhouses, all of them important gay community institutions. Almost 300 men were arrested, one of the largest mass arrests in Canadian history.

The response to these raids was immediate and angry, with thousands taking to the streets. This marked a turning point for the queer community and for Canada's human rights history. Not only did our community organize, strong allies emerged, including the member for Toronto—Danforth. Margaret Atwood famously remarked at one rally, “What have they got against cleanliness?”

The raids were a low point in the history of relations between the gay community and the police and the state, but change resulted. The Right to Privacy Committee began many years of defending those arrested and raising civil liberties and privacy issues. Toronto's first Pride parade was held later that year.

Bath raids did not end in 1981, but the Toronto raids changed the politics of gay liberation and pushed many to come out politically. We remember those arrested and outed, sometimes with tragic consequences, and those inspired to work for full human rights.

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