Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders to apologize for 1981 bathhouse raids
WARNING: Video contains offensive language
Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders will apologize for the raids on four gay bathhouses across the city 35 years ago, CBC News has confirmed.
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Saunders is set to make the apology on behalf of his force on Wednesday.
Nearly 300 men who owned or were patrons of the bathhouses were arrested on Feb. 5, 1981, and major damage was done to some of the premises.
The raids galvanized Toronto's gay community, which then organized a series of protests, and led to the city's first Toronto Pride event later that year, on June 28.
'It was pretty shocking'
Community health advocate Ron Rosenes was at the Roman Sauna Baths with his friends on the night it was raided. He said they all considered it a safe place to gather.
It was an unbelievable night in the life of a young gay man at the time.- Ron Rosenes
"It was pretty shocking," Rosenes told CBC's Metro Morning on Tuesday.
Some of the men were charged with drug offences, while others were given a summons to appear in court, "which was another moment of very humiliating public exposure for something that I really felt was entirely normal and within my own rights," Rosenes said.
In 1981, bathhouses were a place for gay men to meet to engage in consensual sexual activity, Rosenes said. They were particularly important for men who weren't open about their sexuality. The raids ruined some of their lives, he said.