Toronto
3 min

New police board not homo-friendly

The ruling provincial Tories have placed a man on the Toronto Police Services Board who once said he was “offended” by homosexuals.



One of two new appointees is Al Leach – who, as head of the TTC, ripped up a signed contract to advertise gay counselling services on bus transfers.



“I won’t allow it,” Leach said back in 1993. “We have a number of passengers who would be offended by this. And I’m one of them.”



The issue was finally settled after a five-year battle, in favour of the sponsoring group, the Toronto Area Gays And Lesbians.



Leach went on to represent the provincial riding of Rosedale (which includes the gay ghetto) for a single term for the Progressive Conservatives. It took public embarrassment – complaints from staff and volunteers at gay community groups like the 519 Church Street Community Centre – before he’d meet to discuss gay issues in his own riding.



But his office did set up a booth for Pride Day 1998. Activists were so furious with Leach’s performance that they picketed and eventually took over the booth.



As municipal affairs and housing minister, he oversaw the amalgamation of the megacity, ended grants to build co-op housing and removed rent controls.



Leach replaces lawyer Jeff Lyons. In the recent past, Lyons had expressed concern over comments by police union head Craig Bromell that he’d hire private investigators to look into the lives of enemies of the union.



Leach could not be reached for comment.



The other new face comes from Toronto Council, to replace the gay-positive Olivia Chow. (The progressive Chow resigned under pressure from the police union, the police chief and members of her own board.)



City Councillor Gordon Chong is expected to be ratified in August.



Chong is a former Toronto Sun columnist considering running for the Canadian Alliance in the next federal election.



But while he has many rightwing opinions, he was also the only metro councillor back in 1981 to go down to the police station to demonstrate with gay men and lesbians in protest of the bathhouse raids. Police destroyed some of the businesses with sledgehammers and arrested more than 200 gay men in the infamous raids.



Chong is generally a big cop supporter. During the last municipal election, he sent out literature with an endorsement by then chief Bill McCormack – though the rules say such an endorsement is not allowed.



He favours the collection of race-based crime statistics.



Chong is on holiday and could not be reached for comment.



The only strong voice for gay men and lesbians left on the police board is law student Sandy Adelson.



“I’m gay-positive,” says Adelson. “I don’t put it on a sliding scale.” But she also admits that there are few voices raised in defence of gay issues during board meetings.



“I’d be the one – me and Olivia – talking about it [gay issues].”



She and Olivia Chow were also the only two board members who voted against hiring Julian Fantino for chief. “We voted against him even though we knew we were going to lose.”



Adelson is trying to make friends. “I’ve been pretty impressed by his enthusiasm. He’s tireless…. I’m trying. He’s our chief right now.”



Other members of the seven-person board have either never spoken out about gay issues in public, or say they’re trying – like chair Norm Gardner, who says he’s no longer the opponent that his past voting record on city council would indicate. He attended a Pride week gathering organized by the mayor’s office and billed as a police board and police chief-sponsored event.



RIVERDALE CRUISING ALERT



Cops are hanging out in Riverdale Park.



An anonymous note sent to Xtra reads: “I have recently been enjoying the park sex scene in Riverdale Park East (north end of the park, in the bushes between Riverdale Pool and the Don Valley Parkway).



“On a recent night time visit, I noticed two people seemingly checking out the area, they stayed on the pathways in the clearing. They both looked very much out of place. After getting my needs met, I left via the area around Riverdale Pool and noticed two police vehicles with two officers in each. They too looked completely out of place as it was around midnight last Friday.” That would be Jul 14.



“It looks like the cops are on to us and could be preparing a sting operation. People should be cautious.”



TAYLOR CREEK PARK



Cops are in Taylor Creek Park this summer.



University Of Toronto student Esther Ignagni was walking her dog Jun 26 when she discovered police everywhere.



“I think we almost witnessed a raid of a gay cruising area by Taylor Creek Park,” she said, in a call to Xtra.



“It was just before dusk, police were there, they asked me to put my dog on a leash…. clearly guys who were not gay men were going in there as if to jog around….”