Showing posts with label Toronto. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Toronto. Show all posts

November 15, 2016

Toronto Police Going Undercover to Arrest Men on Men Sex


Marie Curtis Park. Photo via Flickr user Gary J. Wood


 Less than six months after Toronto police officially apologized for the 1981 bathhouse raids that targeted gay men, the cops have charged dozens of consenting adult men for having sex at a local park. 

A couple months ago, the cops undertook undercover operation Project Marie at Etobicoke's Marie Curtis Park in response to community complaints about indecent exposure and an alleged sexual assault. As a result of the investigation, through which "a number" of plain-clothed male officers hung out in the park and at times were solicited for sex, a total of 89 charges have been laid against 72 people, mostly men, according to police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray.

Very few of the charges are criminal in nature.

The majority relate to bylaw infractions and provincial offences, including 36 for engaging in sexual behaviour in a park and 33 for trespassing property. Gray said the men charged were primarily consenting adults. 

Though the charges are minor in a legal sense, they have the potential to ruin lives, according to LGBT lawyers who say the investigation is a gross overreaction by police.

"Toronto police sent undercover police officers into the bushes to wait for men to proposition them for sex so they could arrest them. In 2016," Marcus McCann, a gay Toronto-based human rights lawyer, told VICE.

"That is unacceptable."

In response to news of the operation, McCann and ten other lawyers have stepped up to offer free legal help to the men who've been charged. He said it's likely that some will plead guilty and pay their fines—which can be hundreds of dollars—rather than risk exposing themselves publicly by fighting the charges.

"There have been crackdowns on men who have sex with men in the various locations they do it for 40 years or more," said McCann. "We know for that population these kinds of charges can have very severe consequences around shame and stigma, the risk of outing, there can be employment consequences, family consequences. Something that's a fairly minor bylaw infraction has the potential to really, really disrupt lives for these men and their families."

He said depression and suicidal ideation are also potential outcomes.

Const. Kevin Ward, one of the officers who went undercover, told the Etobicoke Guardian cops aren't planning on easing up on their crackdown.

"I want anyone engaging in these illegitimate activities to know that this is no longer a safe place for this to happen. We are going to be at the park every day and we will not be tolerating it," he said.

However, some are questioning the allocation of police resources on something that didn't net many criminal charges.

"It's basically like a very expensive sting operation for jaywalking," said McCann. He noted that while police have publicly spoken about reports of men who exposed themselves to children in relation to Project Marie, child sex predators aren't who they targeted by using adult undercover officers. 


"I think the Toronto police conflation of men who have sex with men with pedophilia is truly, truly troubling." 

Gray said she could not disclose how much the police spent on Project Marie. She also couldn't say how many community complaints cops received or if there's been a spike in sexual activity at Marie Curtis Park.

She said the initiative wasn't meant to target gay men.

"We don't know the sexual orientation of any of the men who were involved, nor does it matter quite frankly," she said. "These people were engaged in behaviour that was against the law."

McCann said cops should have used a public education campaign, similar to the one they rolled out to curb drinking at Trinity Bellwoods Park. Gray said police started with that tactic, increasing their uniformed presence at the park and explaining to people what behaviour is and isn't acceptable.

Kyle Kirkup, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, said for members of the LGBT community, the operation is reminiscent of the bathhouse raids.

"People may not be out to their families. To have the police kind of force them out of the closet in this way, I think the consequences are going to be really devastating," he told VICE

Kirkup, who identifies as gay, pointed to the controversy that followed Toronto's Pride Parade this past summer, when Black Lives Matter demanded that cops no longer have an institutional presence in future marches.

"I think moments like this community members think, Wow, if this is the way they're governing themselves in 2016, perhaps it's unacceptable to have the police in the parade."

He said a better approach would have been to reach out to LGBT community groups and work together to resolve the issue.

Police are planning a “Walk the Beat" event at the park on Saturday, to discuss the issue with community members.

 Manisha Krishnan       By Manisha Krishnan
Senior Writer
  This a post from vice and posted here without edits or changes.

June 23, 2016

Toronto Police Chief to Make Apology for Raids at Gay Baths in 1981




                                                                         


Toronto’s police chief is set to make a historic apology on Wednesday for a string of raids on gay bathhouses in 1981 – a watershed for gay rights in Canada and the catalyst for Toronto’s annual pride parade which is now one of the biggest celebrations of its kind in the world.

On 5 February 1981, 286 men were arrested on charges of prostitution and indecency when uniformed and plainclothes police officers stormed four of the largest gay bathhouses in the city.

It remains one of the largest mass arrests in Canadian history, but the raids are now better remembered as the country’s equivalent to the Stonewall riots.

“Gay people realized that they had to band together, they had to get political, and they had to stand up for their rights,” said Ron Rosenes, who was 33 when he was arrested at the Romans II bathhouse that night.

“I was alone in my room when all of a sudden all hell broke loose,” he told the Guardian. “I heard the police knocking on doors and they came to my door and basically bashed it in. And I was brusquely and roughly escorted to the front of the building.”

He was handed a summons to appear in court, and allowed to dress and go home, but still remembers it as a traumatic experience.

Most charges under the country’s “bawdy house” laws were later either dropped or dismissed, but many of the men outed by the police that night had their lives ruined, Rosenes said.

“I had it easier than a lot of the men who weren’t out of the closet, weren’t supported by friends and family like me, and who were at other bathhouses where there was a lot more violence,” he said.

Widely perceived as a deliberate attempt by police to silence gay activism in Toronto, the raids instead galvanized the gay community and its allies.

Around 3,000 protesters took to the streets the next night in a hastily organized protest against the arrests and police harassment.

Ken Popert, who at the time worked for the now defunct gay newspaper the Body Politic, said the raids marked a turning point for what had previously been a fractured community.
“I was actually dreading going to the demonstration that night because I was expecting the usual bedraggled 150 familiar faces,” he said. “But when I arrived there were already a thousand people there – the sidewalks were overflowing.”

Toronto’s police chief, Mark Saunders, is expected to apologize to the city’s LGBT community in a speech on Wednesday afternoon.

Dennis Findlay, president of the Gay and Lesbian Archives, was among a group of activists who approached Saunders a few months ago suggesting the police apologize.

“It’s long overdue but it is most appropriate,” he said.

But Findlay said Wednesday’s apology is just a first step in improving the force’s relationship with marginalized communities throughout Canada’s largest city.

“How do they deal with the trans community? How do they deal with the black community? How do they deal with the aboriginal community? That’s the shortlist,” he said.

“They have to start working with the communities who are minorities within our society, work with them on how to move forward so they don’t continue to make these stupid mistakes.”

Saunders is also expected to apologize for a raid in 2000 by several police officers on an all-female bathhouse event, which led to an Ontario Human Rights Commission settlement in 2005 that included sensitivity training for all Toronto police officers on gay and lesbian issues.

Canada decriminalized homosexuality in 1969, but it was only in 1996 the country’s LGBT community gained federal protection against discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Ontario added sexual orientation to its human rights code in 1986.


April 22, 2015

How A Lesbian Teacher Convinces Kids to Accept LGBQT




TORONTO,   A primary grade lesbian teacher from an Ontario public school revealed in a workshop at a homosexual activist conference for teachers earlier this month how she uses her classroom to convince children as young as four to accept homosexual relationships.
“And I started in Kindergarten. What a great place to start. It was where I was teaching. So, I was the most comfortable there,” Pam Strong said at the conference, attended by LifeSiteNews.
The conference, hosted by the homosexual activist organization Jer’s Vision, now called the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, focused on the implementation of Bill 13 in Ontario classrooms. Bill 13, called by critics the ‘homosexual bill of rights,’ passed in June 2012 and gave students the right to form pro-gay clubs in their school, including Catholic ones, using the name Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA).
Strong, who is in an open relationship with another woman and who has been a teacher for about five years, focused her workshop on what she called the “power of conversation” for promoting LGBTQ issues in an elementary classroom. She began her talk by relating how she reacted the first time one of her students called another student ‘gay’ as a putdown.
“With [the principal’s] encouragement, we decided that I would go from class to class and talk about what ‘gay’ means, what does ‘LGBTQ’ mean, what do ‘I’ mean,” she told about 40 attendees, all educators, at her workshop.
Strong related how she began with the junior kindergarten class.
“And I read a [pro-gay child’s] book [King and King], and I started to realize that conversations can be very difficult, and they can have the most power when they are the most difficult.”
“But difficult conversations are a part of what we do as teachers, right? And when these conversations are properly supported by teachers within the safety of the classroom, they provide a rich environment for our students as they unpack these complex social issues and they reflect on their own preconceptions, rights, of gender, sexuality, love, all these different things,” she said.
Strong related that as she was reading “King and King” in the junior kindergarten class as a springboard to discuss her sexuality with the kids, she got to the part where the two princes become ‘married’ when one of the boys suddenly shouted out: “They can’t do that! They can’t get married. They’re two boys.”
Recounted Strong: “And I said, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, they can. It’s right here on page 12.”

Image
Some of the pro-gay children's books Strong uses with her students. Pete Baklinski / LifeSiteNews

To which the boy replied, according to Strong: “Oh, yeah, I know Mrs. Strong, but that’s just a story. That’s not real life.”
“And I said: ‘It happens in real life too. I am married to a woman. I am gay. And I am in love with my wife.”
Strong said the young children “just all kind of went silent.” She then told them: “That may seem different to you, how many of you have heard of that before?”
“Not one hand went up,” she related. “And so I said: ‘That may seem different to you, but we’re not that different. Would you like to know about what I do with my family?”
“Yeah, tell us,” she recounted the children enthusiastically saying. 
“I said, you know, we take our kids to the park. I swing them on swings,” she related, telling conference attendees that she could share things she did with her own children that “mostly likely all of their families did with them.”
Then she told the children: “We laugh together. We go grocery shopping together. I read to them. I tickle them, sometimes until they scream and laugh and when they cry, I hug them until they stop.” 
Strong said that at that point, the boy who had used the word ‘gay’ looked and her and said: “Well, you’re a family.”
“And I said, yeah, we are,” she related. “And off I go to the next classroom.”
Strong said that she went from “class to class to class and continued with these conversations, and they were very powerful.”
‘It’s normal in my classroom’
Strong related an incident that happened last fall involving a new boy who had recently entered her grade 5 classroom. The new boy had not yet been made aware of Strong’s sexual preference for other women.
“All my class is very used to who I am. My family picture is very proudly in my room now. On Mondays they quite often will say, ‘What did you do with your wife?’ It’s normal in my classroom.”
Strong said that a conversation between herself and the students came up one day where it was mentioned that she was a lesbian. The new boy put his hands over his mouth and said, according to Strong: “Oh, my God, I think I’m going to puke.”
“As I took the abuse — personally, as an individual – of those words, I also saw half of my class look at me with incredible concern. One student who was right in front of me already had tears in her eyes. And I noticed several other students who were looking at him. They were just very, very upset with this kid,” she related.
Strong said the boy instantly became aware that “something he had said had just created this unbelievable tension in the room.” She related how she addressed the boy, telling him: “I think that what you might not be aware of is that I am gay, and I am married to a woman, and my family has two moms.’”

Image
The chart Strong uses to show her students that same-sex partnerships are the same as male-female families. Pete Baklinski / LifeSiteNews

“His eyes just started darting around, and he was incredibly uncomfortable,” she related.
“I looked at the other kids and I said: ‘Ok guys, what I want to ask you is: Am I upset with him?’ And the one little girl in my class put up her hand — that doesn’t usually get into these conversations very much in my classroom — and she said, ‘Mrs Strong, I know you’re not upset with him, because he hasn’t had the benefit of our conversations.”
“And I looked at my little friend, my ‘new’ friend, and I said: ‘But, we’re going to have one now,’” she related.
Strong said that she then directed her class to the board and asked them to write everything she had told them related to LGBTQ.
“And my class all of a sudden popped up. ‘LGBTQ’ was on the board, ‘lesbian,’ and all the different words coming out there. And I sat back and said, ‘Let’s review.’ So, the last year and a half of ‘inclusive’ education came alive in my classroom.”
Strong told her workshop attendees that her “new little friend” is now a devoted champion of diversity. She boasted how he was the one in her class to count down the days to the pro-homosexual Day of Pink that took place earlier this month. When Strong took a photo of all the children wearing pink shirts in her classroom, she said the boy requested to be in the front.
“For me, that is the power of conversations. That’s the power of sharing our stories,” she said.
LGBTQ classroom ‘conversation starters’
Strong called it “key” to develop a “positive classroom culture” — and she mentioned it often takes months — before getting into what she called “difficult conversations” with students about convincing students of the normality of her sexual preference for women.
She mentioned how she spends time “building a common vocabulary” in her classroom of words like “stereotype, prejudice, discrimination” so her students will be able to more readily conform to her pro-LGBTQ message.
“Sometimes with these big ideas there are also very big words that are very hard to understand. I find that whether it’s kindergarten, right up to grade six, visuals help a lot,” she said. 
The lesbian teacher has amassed a collection of “conversation starters” that she says helps get her started when presenting to her students the LGBTQ message. She said pro-gay children’s books are one of her favorites.
“I use current events, news articles, advertisement are great for gender, especially with Kindergarten kids, pink and girl toys and all the rest of it. Commercials are great, I use one right now, the Honey Maid commercial.” The 2014 “Dad & Papa" commercial depicts two male same-sex partners engaging with their children in normal family activities such as making s’mores, eating dinner around the table, and walking in the park.
Strong says she watches the commercial with her students up to three times, asking them to make a list of all the similarities between the gay-partnership and their own families.
“Of course they think it’s going to be so different, [that] this family is going to be so different,” she said.
Strong said the kids notice dozens of similarities, but usually only one difference, namely that the commercial has “two dads.” Other than this, she said the students “could not find one thing in that commercial that was different than their own families.” In this way she convinces the kids that a gay-partnership is identical to a family made up of a male and female. Strong called it a “fantastic lesson for kids of all ages.”
“There was nothing left for me to teach at the end of it. It was a huge learning for some kids,” she said.
‘Recruiting children? You bet we are’
Though homosexual activists claim their efforts in the schools are a way of combatting bullying, a number of homosexual activists have highlighted that the movement’s goal is in fact to “indoctrinate” children into accepting the normalcy of the homosexual lifestyle.
“I am here to tell you: All that time I said I wasn't indoctrinating anyone with my beliefs about gay and lesbian and bi and trans and queer people? That was a lie,” wrote Canadian gay activist Sason Bear Bergman, a woman who identifies as a transgender man, in a March 2015 piece titled “I Have Come to Indoctrinate Your Children Into My LGBTQ Agenda (And I'm Not a Bit Sorry).” Bergman holds nothing back, stating she wants to make children “like us” even if that “goes against the way you have interpreted the teachings of your religion.”
In 2011 U.S. gay activist Daniel Villarreal penned a column for Queerty.com stating that the time had come for the homosexual lobby to admit to “indoctrinating” schoolchildren to accept homosexuality.
“Why would we push anti-bullying programs or social studies classes that teach kids about the historical contributions of famous queers unless we wanted to deliberately educate children to accept queer sexuality as normal?”
“We want educators to teach future generations of children to accept queer sexuality. In fact, our very future depends on it. Recruiting children? You bet we are,” he added.
Homosexual activist Michael Swift wrote in 1987 in the Gay Community News that school children would become explicit targets for homosexual indoctrination. “We shall seduce them in your schools…They will be recast in our image. They will come to crave and adore us,” he wrote at the time. 
Pete Baklinski

February 8, 2014

Druggie Toronto Mayor Demands Rainbow Flag taken down


  Toronto Mayor Rob Ford wants to remove a rainbow flag at City Hall that protests Russia's law restricting gay-rights activities, and he hoisted a Canadian flag in his office window in response on Friday.
Some city halls across Canada raised the rainbow flag as the opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics began in Sochi, Russia.
"It's not about someone's sexual preference," Ford said. "I do not agree with putting up the rainbow flag. We should put our Canadian flag up."
Ford brushed past reporters so he could go outside and inspect the Canadian flag that he put in his office window. He said he asked the city manager to take down the rainbow flag.
City spokeswoman Jackie DeSouza said the city's chief of protocol approved flying the rainbow flag for the next two weeks after a local community center requested it. DeSouza said the mayor has not made a request to city staff to take it down.
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly said flying the rainbow flag is a sign of solidarity.
Others in Toronto have taken up the cause. The Toronto-based Canadian Institute for Diversity and Inclusion, a nonprofit that works to improve diversity in the workplace, released a satirical video on YouTube featuring a two-man luge team rhythmically taking flight in slow motion, set to the 1980s hit "Don't You Want Me." It ends with the words on screen, "The Games have always been a little gay. Let's fight to keep them that way."
The mayor of Canada's largest city has made international headlines for his erratic behavior after acknowledging last year that he had smoked crack cocaine while in a drunken stupor. He has resisted pressure to step down and is seeking re-election, though the city council has stripped him of much of his powers. His erratic behavior has embarrassed many Canadians.
Earlier this week, Ford said he would never attend the city's annual gay pride parade and said, "I'm not going to change the way I am."
Some criticized his comments as homophobic. He has previously said he skipped the June event because he faithfully attends a family cottage on the weekend of Canada's birthday.
Councilor Doug Ford defended his brother, saying he isn't homophobic.
Doug Ford said he’s been to the parade but won't bring his kids again because he doesn't "condone middle-aged men running down the middle of the street buck naked."
USA Today



Tyler Anderson/National Post

November 24, 2013

The man Toronto Could Have Had

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Dave Chan for National Post
                                           George Smitherman (L) with Husband Christopher Peloso (Right)   

This is the mayor Toronto could have had: George Smitherman, an openly gay liberal who overcame an admitted history of drug use to become Ontario's deputy premier.
Instead, Canada's largest city got Mayor Rob Ford, whose erratic behavior and confessed crack cocaine and alcohol use while in office have embarrassed many fellow citizens and delighted America's late-night TV comedians, leading the city council to strip him of most of his powers this week.
If Toronto is a tale of two cities, the 49-year-old Smitherman represents the one better known to the world, the mainly liberal downtown of Canada's financial capital. Ford hails from the city's vast conservative suburbs, where he won over voters with promises to stop "the gravy train" of government spending and end a so-called "war on cars."
Smitherman, a polished politician, openly told voters during their 2010 campaign that he had beaten a five-year addiction to unspecified "party drugs" back in the 1990s. Ford attacked his opponent on those and other grounds, and won.
Now Ford's own drug history is emerging for the world to see. It turns out Toronto elected a mayor who recently admitted to smoking crack in the past year during one of his "drunken stupors," insists he is not an addict and refuses to resign or take a leave of absence.
Many in the city are shocked. Ford's former opponent is not.
"For anyone who cared to look, all of the mayor's limitations and issues were there from the beginning, before he started campaigning, so I'm not surprised by what's happening at City Hall and with him, just deeply saddened by it all," Smitherman said in an interview from his downtown home that he shares with his husband and two young, adopted children. "He took some dirty shots at me, attacking my sexuality and track record, throwing his weight around to be heard above anyone else. Not much has changed."
How did this happen?
A collective cry of disbelief rang out from Toronto's urbanites on October 25, 2010, at the news that the right-wing, larger-than-life, unscripted Ford had defeated the more moderate, green energy-loving Smitherman for mayor of the traditionally centrist city.
The suburbs had spoken. The nature of Toronto's politics had begun a dramatic shift in the late 1990s, when the city annexed the suburbs and suddenly gained massive numbers of conservative voters who grew resentful of rising taxes and liberal downtown initiatives like expanded arts and culture projects and bike lanes.
The 2010 election for mayor wasn't pretty. The Ford campaign questioned whether Smitherman's past drug use made him unfit for office, though Ford had been charged with marijuana possession and drinking and driving in 1999.
Smitherman didn't heavily attack Ford's past on those grounds.
"I campaigned honorably," Smitherman said. "I'm not a person prone to regret, but I'm reminded of that old adage, 'Don't bring a knife to a gun fight.' I think we were not aggressive enough in exposing his weaknesses that are even more apparent now."
Ford also cast himself as a traditional family man, contrasting his wife with Smitherman's husband - though Ford had been charged with domestic assault in 2008.
Voters saw Smitherman's sexuality as a negative, said University of Toronto political science professor Nelson Wiseman.
"People knew they were electing a mayor with warts ... but Smitherman being gay didn't help him in that election," Wiseman said.
Ford also appealed to the city's conservatives by painting Smitherman as a tool of Toronto's liberal elite and himself as an authentic everyman.
The election wasn't really close: Ford defeated Smitherman by a margin of 47 percent to 36 percent.
And Ford's core of conservative supporters, known as "Ford Nation," was born.
"It was a Tea Party kind of time in Toronto," Smitherman said. "That election was similar to when the Tea Party was at its heights in the U.S. and the guy that never spent a penny was more authentic than the guy who spent 250 million dollars. Experience became a negative rather than a positive. I ended up as the de facto incumbent in the race where incumbency was unhelpful."
Smitherman was first attracted to politics during his working-class boyhood, when his hard-driving father built a trucking business. His father's death when Smitherman was 28 sent him into an emotional decline, triggering his drug use. A series of what he calls "strong liberal women," including his grandmother, however, helped him find a political career.
Smitherman entered the 2010 mayoral race after years as a member of Parliament for the provincial Liberal Party, where he served as health minister and deputy premier and went on to become then-Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's right-hand man.
That experience was marked by criticism over hundreds of millions of dollars in spending on an electronic health records system, and Toronto’s suburban voters were wary of what Smitherman might do in charge.
Rob Ford crack video
"Ford's simple and populist message meant it rang very well in the suburbs," Smitherman said. He also attributed his loss to Toronto's political system, where political parties are largely absent. The 2010 mayoral race had about 40 candidates, and Smitherman said he took part in 106 debates.
None of those debates was head-to-head with Ford.
Smitherman could have campaigned differently or attacked Ford's past, but "I'm not sure that would have won over people in Ford Nation," Wiseman, the professor, said.
"He's not in touch with the suburbs," Wiseman said. "He's someone like myself who lives downtown and has a downtown sensibility. Walks to a lot of things, thinks subways are good, who wants to wage a war on the car. ... Someone coming from the suburbs will always beat someone coming from the city because of demographics.
"The old city of Toronto has about 750,000 people, the suburbs have 2 million. Do the math."
These days, Smitherman has moved from politics into a private-sector job as a consultant for startup companies. He and his family are moving into a newly gentrified Toronto neighborhood where they plan to spend six months of the year and the other six months in Costa Rica. He hopes living abroad will give his adopted children a "bicultural experience in one of the richest biospheres anywhere. And in a place where values like sustainability are key."
Smitherman says he has moved on from his loss in the mayoral race, no matter what Ford does.
"I loved politics, but on the other hand, losing opens up pathways that are extraordinary. I stand at this point in my life, months away from my 50th birthday, without regrets and a pretty exciting road that I’m on," he said.
By CHARMAINE NORONHA

T

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