When Randall Garrison heard about Project Marie, the Toronto Police Service’s crackdown on public sex in an Etobicoke park, he thought back to 1981.
“It makes a man of my age think back to the bathhouse raids,” he says. “Here we are, 30 years later still doing this kind of stuff.”
Garrison, an MP from Vancouver Island and the NDP’s LGBT issues critic, is speaking out against what he believes are homophobic police actions.
Over 70 people, almost all of them men, were arrested and charged in a six-week-long operation aimed at cracking down on sexual behaviour in Marie Curtis Park. Toronto police have come under fire from members of the LGBT community for using undercover officers rather than potentially less punitive tactics to solve the problem.
Garrison says he couldn’t help but note the contrast between the undercover operation and the federal government’s introduction of a bill to equalize the age of consent.
“It just goes to show that homophobia is alive and well and we have to keep working to combat it,” he says.
Garrison has been fighting against homophobia in policing for his entire political career. His first political appointment was to the Esquimalt Police Board, making him the first openly gay man to serve in that capacity in British Columbia.
“I’ve been working on these issues for more than 20 years, so I felt the contradiction was so apparent,” he says.
Garrison, who believes the Toronto police has made significant progress on LGBT issues, hopes the police board will look into the operation and perhaps even discipline those responsible, if appropriate.
“It’s going against all of the progress that’s been made, especially in the last 10 years there,” he says.