2 min

Hands off the sex

Olivia Chow says cops need a cold shower

MONEY FOR THE BIJOU COVER CHARGE? New police commissioner Olivia Chow is now wondering what cops will do with cash windfall they got from Toronto City Council this month. Credit: Jan Becker

The city’s newest police commissioner says the cops should leave gay men having sex at the Bijou alone – and focus on batterers and pimps.

“Police certainly have a lot of other things to do,” says Downtown City Councillor Olivia Chow, who joined the Toronto Police Services Board last month.

“You can chase drug dealers, pimps that are dealing with very young, young girls on the street. Sexual assaults and domestic violence.”

Chow goes on to list ongoing gang wars and rising white-collar crime as other hobby horses police might want to jump on.

“Never mind prostitution,” she’s quick to add. “That should be decriminalized, so I won’t even go there.”

As for the raids against the Bijou – Chow considers the cinema “a private club.”

“It’s not out in the public,” she says. “So it’s a theatre. I don’t know why they went in and did what they did.

“It’s like knowing that they’re not going to go out and charge everybody, which is good. If this is an isolated incident, that would be helpful.”

It could have been.

But less than 12 hours after Chow was interviewed, police went back to the Bijou during the early morning hours of Canada Day. It was the cinema’s fourth shakedown in less than three weeks.

The bar is now closed now, facing a combined 30 charges with its patrons. And while police maintain they aren’t interested in raiding baths next, cops claim they never intended to close the Bijou, either.

More disturbing is the fact that they can’t promise tub patrons leniency.

Baths with liquor licences are subject to the same kind of inspection that brought police to the Bijou. And police say if they see an “indecent act,” they’ve got to charge.

“There better be some serious discussions going on here,” says Chow. “I just don’t understand. The police are saying that they are short-staffed, especially in the summer. They came begging for $2-million. I was very reluctant to give them this overtime pay, because I thought they could manage their money better. But [fellow Downtown Councillor Kyle Rae] spearheaded it, and the mayor is behind it. If they need more money to go after bathhouses – I mean, give me a break.

“I thought they said that they needed officers out on the street to be visible. Being in the bathhouse is not being visible, and they should be dealing with things that the public is concerned about. Not in the old days of the ’80s, where they go and nab people in the bathhouse. That’s a huge step backwards.”

Chow’s task to push the issue will likely be made more difficult by the fact that she’s not going to be the most popular commissioner.

Outgoing Police Chief David Boothby, for example, is said to have opposed Chow’s appointment by City Council.

“I’m sure as the newly appointed police commissioner, I’m sure that she’ll be able to delve in to find out how we on the Toronto service waste our time,” says Det Sgt Doug Singleton of 52 Division. “And I’m anxiously anticipating Ms Olivia Chow’s input into how I can properly run my office. I am anxiously anticipating how Ms Olivia Chow can advise me on how to efficiently run my office.

“Have you got that?”

Chow is generally regarded as a progressive. She is the first upfront gay-positive voice on the Toronto Police Services Board in two years.

Chow says gay voters have a right to demand that she and fellow Downtown City Councillor Kyle Rae find a way to keep the Bijou and bathhouses open.

“Of course you should expect that from us. Expectation is not a strong enough word. It should be your demand. It’s our responsibility. Why else do you want people in local government?”