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You’ve come a long way, Pussy

Legal settlement signals the end of an era

VICTORIOUS. Toronto Women's Bathhouse Committee. Credit: Xtra Files

After five years the sordid saga of the 2000 raid on the Pussy Palace can finally be put to rest. On May 13, the last outstanding legal chapter in the case was closed with a hearing of the class-action case stemming from the raid.

The class-action suit was launched Jul 30, 2002 against the Toronto Police Services Board and the five male officers involved in the raid. The recent hearing offered an opportunity for potential class members – women or trans people who were present on the night of Sep 14, 2000 – to voice objections to the proposed settlement. None of the members present voiced objections to the deal.

As per the deal brokered last December by the board, $350,000 will go to the Toronto Women’s Bathhouse Committee. The money will be going to charity, after the committee’s legal fees are paid off.

Maggie’s, an organization that runs support programs for Toronto sex workers, is receiving $25,000. The Bill 7 Award fund will receive $165,000. Operated by Supporting Our Youth, the award supports gay, lesbian and trans students who are pursuing post-secondary education.

As a part of the settlement, the committee received a written apology from the five male officers involved in the raid, as well as a commitment that sensitivity training for the whole Toronto police force will be implemented.

Here’s a look back at the ups and downs of the case.

Sep 14, 1998
The first-ever Toronto Women’s Bathhouse, dubbed Pussy Palace, sees hordes of horny dykes descend on Club Toronto.

Sep 14, 2000
Pussy Palace is raided by five uniformed male police officers. Two organizers, JP Hornick and Rachel Aitcheson, are charged with six liquor infractions including the infamous “disorderly conduct” charge, which has routinely been used to target queer events.

Oct 28, 2000
Outraged supporters protest 52 Division. The “panty picket” draws approximately 125 men and women waving placards with slogans like “Sluts can’t be shamed” and chanting, “Fuck you, 52.”

February 2002
Judge Peter Hryn throws out the evidence collected in the raid, ruling that the raid violated the constitutional rights of Hornick and Aitcheson. In his decision, Hryn likens the investigation to visual rape.

June 2002
City Councillor Kyle Rae is found guilty of libel for comments he made in the wake of the raid for calling the involved police officers “goons,” “rogues” and “cowboys”; the city pays out $170,000 in damages to seven officers – the five male officers plus two undercover female officers.

Jul 30, 2002
Class-action suit
quietly launched against the Toronto Police Services Board and the five male officers involved in the raid. The case joins the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) complaint launched in 2001.

Jun 17, 2004
Unable to resolve the OHRC complaint through mediation due to lack of cooperation from the cops, the commission calls for a public hearing into the raid.

Dec 17, 2004
A deal is brokered between the police board and the Women’s Bathhouse Committee that resolves both the OHRC complaint and the class-action suit. The deal includes improved queer and trans sensitivity training for all members of the force as well as $350,000 to pay off the committee’s legal fees with the rest going to charity. It also includes a written apology from the five male officers involved in the raid. One of the concessions is that the committee withdraws the complaints against then-chief Julian Fantino.

May 13, 2005
Class-action suit
officially settled. A special Pussy Prevail edition of the bathhouse to take place Thu, Jun 11.