2 min

Pussies take a bite out of the cops

Settlement includes money, more sensitivity training

SEXUAL CELEBRATION. Past and present Toronto Women's Bathhouse Committee members Carlyle Jansen, Carol Thames, Chanelle Gallant, JP Hornick, Janet Rowe and Loralee Gillis are feeling good after settling their complaints against the cops in relation to the 2000 raid on the Pussy Palace. Credit: RJ Martin

In a negotiatedsettlement brokered by the new progressive majority of the Toronto Police Services Board, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) complaint stemming from the Sep 14, 2000 raid on the Pussy Palace has finally been settled.

“We are very happy with this settlement,” says long-time Toronto Women’s Bathhouse Committee member Carlyle Jansen. “It was a long time coming.”

On Dec 17 a deal was reached between the Toronto Police Services Board and the Pussy Palace organizers, resulting in an award of $350,000 to the committee. The money will pay legal expenses with the excess going to two as yet undisclosed charities.

The settlement also mandates new policies for dealing with trans people as well as improved gay and lesbian sensitivity training for all Toronto police officers. While such training is nothing new – some of the cops that were recently found by a jury to have assaulted Toronto gay man Robert Schisler in 1999 had previously undergone gay sensitivity training – the new training will be more comprehensive. According to the settlement, the training will pay special attention to “the inspection of liquor licences and special occasion permits at gay/lesbian venues and businesses; attendance at gay/lesbian bathhouses for the purpose of investigating suspected infractions of the Liquor Licence Act or Regulations; and the handling by the police of the search, arrest and detention of transgendered people.”

The settlement comes just in time to avoid public OHRC hearings into the raid, which were scheduled to begin in early January. The hearings would have looked at what happened that night in September 2000 when five uniformed male officers entered the women-only space and laid liquor licence violations against two of the organizers.

Those charges were thrown out in 2002 by Judge Peter Hryn who found that the women’s human rights had been violated in the raid. Hryn likened the raid to “visual rape” and called it a “flagrant violation of Charter rights.”

As part of the settlement, the five officers involved in the raid have signed a written apology.

City Councillor Pam McConnell, chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, called the settlement a “great victory” for the bathhouse organizers but says she’s disappointed at Police Chief Julian Fantino’s reacion – that the deal she helped to broker is being forced on the cops.

“The settlement will be implemented, regardless of complaints by certain officers,” says McConnell.

Fantino did not return Xtra’s calls. One of the concessions on the part of the bathhouse committee in the settlement was the withdrawal of the complaints against the outgoing chief.

Richard Hudler of Coalition For Lesbian And Gay Rights In Ontario says that the public is becoming more and more wary of abuse of power by police. “The thin blue line is strong but it is starting to get a little transparent,” says Hudler, pointing to the result in the Schisler case and the Pussy Palace settlement.

Plans for a community event to celebrate the resolution of the complaint are underway for February. The timing of the celebration was chosen to coincide with the 24th anniversary of the 1981 bathhouse raids.

* The Women’s Bathhouse Committee is still seeking new committee members. The application deadline has been extended to Sat, Jan 1. Check out for details.