Toronto
3 min

Time to settle up

Pussy palace class-action suit moves ahead

There’s big bucks anticipated in the settlement of the class-action suit stemming from the Sep 14, 2000 raid of the Pussy Palace, but it won’t be directly profiting the women and trans folk who were there.



“The settlement is unusual because typically money goes from one side to the other,” says lawyer Kathryn Podrebarac, who is representing the four named plaintiffs in the $350,000 suit. “But those involved were of the view that instead of personal compensation the better way to go would be for the money to go to charities.”



But the deal doesn’t tie the hands of potential class members who want to keep the option open of launching their own lawsuit against the cops down the road; there’ll be a chance to opt out once the settlement’s been approved.



“There were people who were, quite frankly, more severely impacted than others,” says Podrebarac. “But considering [the incident] is now five years old, it’s questionable whether they would choose to pursue it but they do have that right.”



The proposed settlement to the little-known suit is part and parcel of the settlement reached last December in connection to the Women’s Bathhouse Committee’s complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC).



“They occurred simultaneously and would have not have occurred but for each other,” explains Podrebarac.



All this is not quite a done deal. There will be a hearing on Fri, May 13 for any potential class members – any woman or trans person who was at the raid – to voice objections to the proposed settlement. (There’s a notice of the proposed settlement in Xtra’s classified section this issue.)



Is that likely to happen? “Quite frankly no,” says Podrebarac. “I think it’s a settlement that makes good sense. It’s fair and reasonable.”



Out of the $350,000 to be paid out as part of the settlement, $85,000 is expected to go to Tough And Podrebarac, the legal firm that worked on the class-action suit, and $75,000 to Sack Goldblatt Mitchell, the firm that worked on the OHRC complaint.



The Bill 7 Award, a fund operated by Supporting Our Youth which provides financial support to queer and trans students pursuing post-secondary education, will receive $165,000. The Bill 7 Award was to have benefited from the original Sep 14 event.



“On the night in question they were to have received the bar proceeds… it was a nice tie-in.”



Maggie’s, which runs support programs for Toronto sex workers, will get $25,000. Committee member Maria-Belen Ordonez explains that in the wake of the raid there was a misunderstanding over whether the committee was supportive of sex workers. “This was a way to reconcile that. The committee has been politically supportive of sex-trade workers.”



Ordonez adds that Maggie’s mandate fits in with the committee’s support for women’s choices about their own bodies.



“Maggie’s is an organization that isn’t like an exit program. It’s not a program that tries to vicitimize women around their choices of work.”



The class-action suit against the Police Services Board and the five male officers involved in the raid isn’t new. It was launched Jul 30, 2002.



Podrebarac says it made sense to settle both cases at the same time. “The police naturally wanted to say, ‘Pussy Palace 2000, we just want it done with.’ And given that it was the same group of people involved from our side as well, it just made sense.”



The proposed settlement also includes new and improved sensitivity training for the entire Toronto police force and a written apology from the five male officers. On the downside, neither the officers nor the board admit to any wrongdoing or liability in connection to the raid.



* The hearing on the proposed settlement of the Pussy Palace 2000 class-action suit will be held on Fri, May 13 at 10am at 393 Uni-versity Ave.



* The next Women’s Bathhouse Committee event will be a Bathhouse Lite from 8pm to 2am on Thu, Apr 14 at Club Toronto (231 Mutual St). For more information check out Pussypalacetoronto.com.