Chief Mark Saunders apologized for the Toronto Police Service’s role in the infamous 1981 bathhouse raids, 35 years after the mass arrests that targeted the gay community.
Saunders’ delivered his remarks during the annual Pride reception at TPS headquarters, June 22, 2016, after first addressing the recent mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
The reception also included statements from Rev Brent Hawkes, and the announcement that TPS will include a gender-neutral bathroom in its headquarters on 40 College St.
A transcription of Saunders’ apology is after the cut.
“. . . We can not let this evening go without historic acknowledgment. The Toronto Police Service recognizes that February 5 of this year marked the 35th anniversary of one of the largest mass arrests in Canadian history. The Toronto police raids on Toronto bathhouses did not occur on just one evening, but the February 1981 event was the most dramatic of its destructiveness and in the number of men arrested, some 300.
An extraordinary community response led to the eventual acquittal of almost everyone arrested that night.
The 35th anniversary of the 1981 raids is the time when the TPS expresses its regret for those very actions.
It is also an occasion to acknowledge the lessons learned about the risks of treating any part of Toronto’s many communities as not fully a part of society. Recognizing diversity requires consistently renewed practice strategies, and reaching out to communities and vigilance in challenging stereotypes.
Policing requires building mutual trust, and that means forging links with the full range of communities that make up this extraordinary city. The TPS recognizes that the lessons from that period have continuing relevance for the creation of a more inclusive city.
While the TPS has made real progress in relations with the mainstream LGBTQ2S communities, we recognize the need for renewed commitment to work together cooperatively and respectfully with other marginalized groups and still disadvantaged sexual minorities.”