With Pride celebrations underway in Montreal, the city's police force is being called on to issue a formal apology to the LGBT community for a series of raids in the 1970s, '80s and '90s that resulted in the arrests of more than 800 people.
Richard Ryan, a Projet Montréal councillor representing the city's Mile-End neighbourhood, said an official apology from both police and the City of Montreal is the "right thing to do" and would help improve relations between the city's police service and the LGBT community.
"The struggle against homophobia and transphobia has made giant steps in recent years, including within the police force, but it would be wrong to believe that the issues are all settled," Ryan said in a news release.
The councillor said raids on gay bars, including Truxx in 1977, Buds in 1984, Sex Garage in 1990 and Katacombes in 1994, were representative of the decades-long "systemic harassment" of the LGBT community by police.
"These raids contributed to the marginalization of the LGBT community and created a climate of tension between the community and police," Ryan said.
Projet Montreal leader Valérie Plante also called on the City of Montreal to establish a public space dedicated to those in the LGBT community who fought back against repression.
Sex Garage witness would welcome apology
An apology would be a welcome development in the eyes of Linda Dawn Hammond, a photographer who was at Sex Garage on July 16, 1990, when the police raid took place.
"It's never too late to say you're sorry, as they say," she said.
There were about 400 members of Montreal's gay and lesbian community attending the private loft party in the city's downtown core when police moved in to shut it down.
Outside the venue, police were accused of removing their name tags and assaulting partygoers with their truncheons as they came out.
Hammond's photographs of the raid and the violence outside the venue helped galvanize the community in its push for acceptance and rights.
Both Hammond and Projet Montréal pointed to a formal apology that Toronto police issued to that city's LGBT community last year for a series of police raids on saunas in 1981.
"Montreal was worse than Toronto in terms of how the LGBT community was treated by the police — Montreal was far harsher," she said.
"If there's going to be an apology, I would like to see them address the fact that they removed their police identification just before attacking us at Sex Garage with their [truncheons]," Hammond said.
"They've denied it, and they've never addressed the fact that it is illegal for them to cover up their identification."