Calgary police offer reconciliation for 2002 gay bathhouse raid
20 years after Goliath’s raid, CPS offers help in getting rid of fingerprints, mugshots
On a warmer-than-average Dec. 12, 2002, Keith Purdy started his shift like any other.
He was the bartender at Texas Lounge in Calgary's Beltline neighbourhood — a bar that adjoins Goliath's, Calgary's only gay bathhouse.
The nice weather had brought people out and the after-lunch crowd had filled the small watering hole when at about 3:30 p.m., "all hell broke loose," Purdy says.
Two female Calgary police officers entered the bar and told everyone to stay in place, he recalled. The locked door that separated the bar and the bathhouse swung open and male officers piled in. Paramedics, firefighters and health inspectors followed.
"I froze, actually," Purdy told CBC News, recollecting events from 20 years ago while standing behind the bar where he once worked.
"It was scary at the time — we didn't know what was happening. They came in, they said, 'This is a raid, don't move, stay where you are!' And things proceeded from there. It was very surreal."
Twenty years later, the Calgary Police Service (CPS), working with members of its gender and sexual diversity advisory committee, has found the records of several bathhouse patrons, including photos and fingerprints, and is offering them help to expunge those records.
Details about that reconciliation process were revealed at CPS headquarters on Monday.
Chief Const. Mark Neufeld delivered a public acknowledgement of the "pain and trauma" the bathhouse raid caused.
"This incident had, and continues to have, a lasting impact on the individuals who were arrested and charged and has also had a negative effect on the relationship between the police and the larger LGBTQ2S+ community in Calgary," the statement read.
It concluded with a pledge to encourage and protect safe spaces, including those for LGBTQ2S+ Calgarians, and protect people from hate-induced harm.
Those familiar with the 2002 incident say they believe this is the first time a major Canadian police force has given this type of assistance to people who bore the brunt of a gay bathhouse raid.
Gay bathhouses are a place where men can have sex with men while maintaining a degree of anonymity.
The locked door and membership required for entry kept the rest of the world out and provided a certain level of privacy, according to community members.
It allowed men who may not be out to family or friends to experiment with their sexuality. Before today's dating apps existed, the bathhouse provided a necessary sanctuary for those in need of uncomplicated sex, say patrons and staff at Goliath's.
The police intrusion ruptured that safe haven and the community that patronized it.
"There is no doubt from the Calgary police perspective that the raid at Goliath's bathhouse was a flashpoint," said Supt. Asif Rashid, who oversees CPS's 10 equity and diversity liaison committees.
"And we acknowledge that it caused a lot of trauma and hurt and degraded the legitimacy of our standing with that community."
In all, 18 men were arrested and charged.
Ten of the found-ins — the police term for bathhouse patrons who were arrested — opted for alternative measures outside of the court system, police said. They were told they must admit guilt in being caught in a common bawdy house, which is the Criminal Code name for a brothel, but would receive no criminal record.
Charges against two others were dropped and six opted to fight the charges, going to a criminal trial. Ultimately, the charges were stayed after two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
According to Mark Randall, a member of the gender and sexual diversity advisory committee and former Goliath's employee, committee liaison officer Const. Dyana McElroy came to them to say the police service wanted to do something to mark the 20th anniversary of the raid.
"The next question came about, are we going to do something?" Randall said. "And if so, what is that going to be? It certainly can't be a celebration because it's certainly nothing to celebrate."
Randall said the police service felt they needed to acknowledge the event and somehow make amends. Committee members raised concerns about what the end goal was. They said those directly affected needed to be involved.
With consultation, the advisory committee advocated for CPS to devote resources and subject matter experts who could guide those with records through the process while having trauma-assisted therapy on hand for those who risked being retraumatized by revisiting long-buried memories.
"It was a baby step process, it was very, very carefully navigated. We identified the folks who needed to be reached out to and connected with," Randall said.
In the end, they found five people who had issues to be addressed, and that process has begun with the help of CPS, though not everyone has agreed to take part in the process, according to Randall.
"I totally have the greatest amount of respect for their decision to do so," Randall said. "Their lives were literally destroyed by that action, and not everyone's able to forgive quite so easily."
A community and police split
Back in 2002, reaction to the raid was hardly rage.
It was very different from the reaction 21 years earlier in Toronto after police entered the gay saunas there with sledgehammers and arrested more than 300.
In that case, thousands took to the street, chanting "gay rights now" and carrying banners that read "Enough Is Enough, Stop Police Violence!" and the more vulgar "No More Shit." It is considered the birth of the Canadian gay rights movement, Canada's Stonewall.
But in Calgary, the Goliath's incident was greeted with more incredulity than anger. If anything, the country's LGBT community was fired up about the debate over same-sex marriage, which was raging at the same time.
"I was told that the officers were surprisingly polite compared to how horrible the officers were in other raids like the Toronto raids in 1981. Still, I don't give them any points for a polite raid," said Robin Perelle, former editor of the LGBT news publication Xtra West, who covered the raid and ensuing trial.
Perelle remembers the police response following the raid as defensive, unwilling to take responsibility for the decision-making that affected people and the lives they had ruined.
Ironically, too, Purdy was on the police liaison committee at the time, a hard-fought achievement in a city where politicians marching in the Pride parade was still controversial. They were building a relationship with the police and trying to educate them on how the community worked but things were still disconnected, Purdy said.
"If [CPS] had issues about community standards," he said, "why weren't those issues brought to the committee so we could discuss them before this raid happened?"
Fault lines within the community began to emerge as well.
"Some of the community members didn't really care that much. Some of them were outraged," Purdy said.
Some LGBT community members saw Goliath's as sleazy, according to Purdy.
Others banded together. Purdy was co-chair of Calgary Pride at the time. Along with a tight group of activists, they strategized. He and Steven Lock — the partner of the only patron who was charged, Terry Haldane — took to the airwaves in a PR battle for the men who were set to go to trial.
At the same time, with help from LGBT organizations in Toronto and Vancouver, the community organized and fundraised for the legal fight.
Anonymous report, undercover sting, the court case
Rashid said the raid came after a lengthy investigation following two reports of illicit sexual activity and prostitution at the bathhouse. The Calgary Herald in 2003 reported the warrant obtained by police alleged sex acts were taking place in common areas of the bathhouse and patrons paying money to watch.
The owners and two attendants were charged with unlawfully keeping a bawdy house, defined at the time as a place where indecent acts take place. The manager was charged with having control of premises used as a common bawdy house.
Haldane was the only patron of the bar that day who decided to fight the charges when all the others opted for the offer of alternative measures outside of the court.
"I didn't do anything wrong," he said. "So [people] were surprised even when we went before the judge for the first court appearance that I pleaded not guilty."
Haldane said at his plea that he was in a private and licensed establishment that passed its health inspections, it was behind a double locked door, and that he had a right to privacy.
He was nervous about the outcome. At first, he thought it would mean 30 days in jail if found guilty. But his lawyer told him it could be five to seven years.
"I said, now, there's a certain amount of dignity attached to this.… So I'll take my chances."
It took two years for the trial to arrive.
Perelle said the Crown presented no hard evidence about prostitution other than that which came from two anonymous tips from the public, which meant the whole case was based on what the men were doing in the bathhouse during the undercover operation and raid and what constituted indecency.
"The community's challenge to everything about this case hinged on why are you calling us indecent? We're not. There's no attack here, there's no assault, there's no allegation that anyone was forced to do anything they didn't want — which of course would be a problem — but that was not the scenario here," Perelle said.
The legal wrangling dragged on for over two years, but the Crown ultimately stayed all charges, citing changing community standards of what was considered indecent.
"What was missing in this case was the necessary proof to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that society would not tolerate this," Crown prosecutor David Torske told CBC Radio after the trial ended.
Mea culpa and the path forward
The raid and trial left a scar on the community's relationship with the Calgary Police Service. With respect to the bathhouse, which reopened weeks after the raid, the policy for many years was not to allow uniformed police inside.
"If we had an emergency, the police could wait outside. That's kind of where it was at," Randall said.
Conversations often took an adversarial tone between the community and the police, even while members of the advisory committee worked to build bridges.
Things did improve eventually. By the end of the decade, CPS began to march in the Pride parade, considered a win by many of those involved in the raid. Roger Chaffin, when he was police chief, apologized in 2018 "for actions in the past that have contributed to the marginalization of LGBTQ2S+ Calgarians over the years," mentioning the 2002 bathhouse raid.
But the conversation around policing and queer people began to sour as some community leaders called attention to police brutality across North America.
Voices, a group of Calgary BIPOC people in the queer community, called on CPS to march without their uniforms in the Pride parade because of a "negative association with weapons, uniforms and other symbols of law enforcement," a statement read from Calgary Pride in 2017.
CPS ultimately decided to back out of marching in the parade altogether in 2019.
Lawyer David Khan, a member of the LGBT community and former leader of the Liberal Party of Alberta, marched with Voices in the 2019 Calgary Pride parade. He says police need to do a lot more work beyond this particular offer of reconciliation.
"They need to publicly recognize their ongoing role in racism and discrimination and prejudice in our community, and they need to recognize that … they're part of the problem," Khan said.
But, Khan said, CPS's work at reaching out to the community and engaging people on their own issues around the Goliath's raid is a good step.
Randall, as a member of the gender and sexual diversity advisory committee, says while there is still work to be done, the fact that the Goliath's reconciliation conversation is happening at all shows progress because of the relationship and trust between the committee and police.
"I think if we ever tried to have this conversation 10 years ago, it would blow up in our face," he said.
Rashid said CPS is listening, that the police service can do better to understand the community and have more compassion in their work.
He said he hopes the flashpoint and the process of reconciliation will help create growth in the community and the police's relationship with the Calgary LGBTQ2SI+ community.
"I hope that it shows some level of vulnerability and understanding on the Calgary Police Service. And it demonstrates a commitment to be open minded and progressive, enlisting and being responsive to community," Rashid said.