Toronto
3 min

Top cop laughs at gay ‘domestic dispute’

A divided crowd of more than 250 packed the 519 Church Street Community Centre last Thursday to attack police, politicians and each other.



The standing-room-only audience was all over police Supt Aidan

Maher early and often, taking him to task on the recent Bijou raids.



“The faces, the look of people being led out of the bar was devastating,” said Richard Burzynski, who was at the Bijou during the Canada Day bust – the fourth – that shut the cinema down.



“The arguments you put forward as the reasons why you had to arrest individuals simply don’t wash. It’s an embarrassment.



“We expect more from our police force and from our politicians.

This is not community policing. We don’t need to be policed. We need to be protected from criminals. It’s 1999, this is Toronto, this is downtown, and we want more from Division 52, and we want more from you, and we don’t want to be policed this way.”



Though Burzynski was one of the more precise speakers, Maher was

peppered with angry questions from the outset of the Jun 22

Church-Wellesley Neighbourhood Police Advisory Committee meeting, enraging people who wouldn’t buy the police line on the Bijou busts.



“The officer in charge left his business card, which is the normal

thing to do, with the doorman, and said, ‘I want the owner to give me a call to deal with this,'” Maher told the audience.



“A couple nights later, the officer again went back to talk to the

owner, and the same thing was happening in the establishment. From our perspective, there was no responsibility being accepted by the licensee.



“If in fact had he responded the first time, I don’t believe there

would have been any further incident.”



(Bijou owner Craig Anderson has refused to talk to Xtra on the advice of his lawyer.)



Maher’s accounting of the 19 criminal sex charges against the wet

cinema’s customers prompted one man to shout, “Sir, I don’t believe you.”



“Shut up,” a woman shot back from the front of the room.



Maher, who took over as head of 52 Division less than a year ago,

was accused of targeting the gay community.



There was jeering, too – so much so that Maher returned to his chair at the head table until the crowd chilled.



Even when things calmed enough for Maher to return to his feet, few liked what they were hearing. It didn’t matter what side they were on, either – resident, squeegee or hardcore homosexual queen – pretty much everyone had a thing or two to tell the coppers.



One side was chastising police sex raids and demanding that coppers back off. The other pole made a case for more law and order – complaining about dope smokers, loud music, public sex and people dancing in the street.



Tongue firmly planted in cheek, Dave Irwin had “a simple question.”



“Why it is that I have such difficulty getting to the new bathhouse on Carlton St, the Spa Excess?” Irwin jabbed. “I can’t get through the prostitutes and the johns continually circling the area.”



Maher answered that 10 prostitutes were arrested in the area last week, and that such sex-worker busts will continue.



“Shame,” a scattered group taunted. “Shame.”



Irwin just wanted the police to stay away from queers.



“Please continue to do that, and leave us who are doing things privately alone,” Irwin said, drawing a handful of jeers himself. “We don’t need police to protect us at the Bijou.”



Though anti-police sentiment ran high throughout the two-and-a-half hour meeting, a notable contingent demanded that police get hard on park sex, dog dookie, dog bites, squeegees, loud music, panhandlers and dope smokers.



The going got stranger when newly-elected Toronto Centre-Rosedale MPP George Smitherman appealed to the crowd, asking for the divisive screaming and shouting to stop.



Smitherman then found himself pointing and shouting at a man who was pointing and shouting back at him.



The meeting more or less ended with Smitherman and Downtown Councillor Kyle Rae yelling and challenging each other.



“It’s a pretty dandy meeting when you see the local councillor having a bit of a domestic with the local MPP,” Maher quipped later in an interview, noting “you’ve a real divided type of community there.”



OUT OF CONTROL



Behaviour in the Church-Wellesley area is dangerously out of control, the neighbourhood’s city councillor says.



Responding to a smattering of complaints regarding everything from

dope smoking and public sex to panhandlers and squeegee kids, Downtown Councillor Kyle Rae told the neighbourhood police advisory committee meeting that things need to change.



“The comments that you heard here tonight, my office gets those

five times a day from people who live in co-ops, condos, apartments, and houses in the downtown area,” said Rae.



“We’re not talking about the homeless per se, we’re talking about

behaviour, and that is out of control in the neighbourhood. I’ve heard it time and time and again.”



That’s when Rae apparently caught a disapproving look from newly elected Toronto Centre-Rosedale MPP George Smitherman.



“And Mr Smitherman,” the councillor said, “you can shake your

head, but once you’re on the job and understand what the job’s about,

you’ll understand -”



“You want a debate with me Kyle?” Smitherman shot back. “I’ll debate you any time.”



“This neighbourhood is in trouble,” the angry councillor told the

angry MPP. “People are very upset about what’s been happening over the last few years, and we can work together to make it better, but the behaviour has gotten out of control.”



Smitherman said he wanted no part of scapegoating the poor.