This week marks the 42nd anniversary of the Toronto bathhouse raids, a pivotal moment in Canada’s fight for 2SLGBTQ+ rights.
On February 5, 1981, in a series of coordinated bathhouse raids by Toronto Police, 300+ community members were publicly shamed and criminally charged. It was one of Canada’s largest mass arrests. At the time, being outed meant risking the loss of family, home, and livelihood.
The event was a pivotal moment in 2SLGBTQ+ activism. Thousands took to the street denouncing police action, making public their anger and pain resulting from years of sanctioned institutional harassment and discrimination. It paved the way for the modern queer rights movement in Canada.
The bathhouse raids are part of a long legacy of tensions within police-community relations that continue to this day. We witnessed the attack of law enforcement at Montreal’s Truxx Bar and Le Mystique in 1977, Toronto’s Pussy Palace in 1999, and Marie Curtis Park in 2016, among others.
Systemic and institutional homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and racism continue to impact our communities. We see it in the way BIPOC 2SLGBTQ+ communities are policed. As the 2021 Epstein report notes, systemic discrimination continues to be pervasive within our police services.
We were angry then, and we continue to be angry. We resisted then and will continue to resist institutional violence and discrimination. We will continue to fight for our communities’ safety and the sanctity of the few queer spaces we have to live authentically. We will continue to demand that you do better, until you have.”
Photo credit: @thearquives