The Right to Privacy Committee (RTPC) was a Canadian organization located in Toronto, and was one of the city's largest and most active advocacy groups during the 1980s, a time of strained police-minority relations.The group focused on the Toronto Police Service's harassment of gays and infringement of privacy rights, and challenged police authority to search gay premises and seize materials. At the time of the 1981 bathhouse raids, RTPC was Canada's largest gay rights group with a mailing and volunteer list of 1,200 names. People associated with the RTPC include Michael Laking, Rev. Brent Hawkes, John Alan Lee, Dennis Findlay, Tom Warner, and George W. Smith.
On December 9, 1978 a police raid occurred on the Barracks bathhouse. In response, a support group was established, called the December 9 Defence Fund, to provide the twenty-eight men arrested in the raid with legal assistance and some limited funding.Later, in March 1979, the group was renamed the Right to Privacy Committee. The RTPC was dissolved at the last annual meeting on February 9, 1991, after the group felt its presence in Toronto was not as necessary as it once had been. The RTPC archives, which include posters, photographs, recordings, minutes, reports and more, are located in the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives in Toronto.
On March 15, 1979, the RTPC circulated copies of News and Views, the official publication of the Toronto Police Association, which featured racist and homophobic articles. By April 5, 1979 the RTPC had organized a meeting with the Metropolitan Board of Commissioners of Police to discuss concerns about Tom Moclair's homophobic article "The Homosexual Fad," which had been published in the March 1979 issue of News and Views.At the meeting, they gay delegation presented the police board with a brief entitled Our Police Force Too! which outlined ten demands, one of which asked for the establishment of a permanent, Toronto gay-police liaison. The brief was written by John Alan Lee, Peter Maloney, and George Hislop. The Board of Commissioners responded on May 31, 1979 with a seventy-page brief entitled "Declaration of Concern and Intent (Standing Order 25)," which made no specific mention of sexual orientation. Community minority groups denounced the brief and demanded further action. In June 1979 both Metro Council and the City of Toronto Council passed resolutions that called on the Metropolitan Board of Commissioners of Police to answer specific demands by the gay and minority communities. However, the Ontario Police Commission later released a report that denied these requests and dismissed demands for a civilian-police liaison.
On June 6, Don Franco was charged with keeping a common bawdy house in his home. Franco, a teacher, advertised for partners in The Body Politic and had been one of many arrested in the December 9, 1978 Barracks raids. He also served as the RTPC's membership secretary. The police informed the school where Franco was working of his activities, and confiscated several items, such as membership lists for the RTPC and the NDP Gay Caucus. The raid was condemned by the gay community as an act of revenge by the police, and the case made history as it was the first home, where no prostitution or sex with minors was occurring, to be charged under bawdy house law.
The RTPC and the Working Group on Police Minority Relations, at a press conference they held on June 18, 1979, called on the Ontario Police Commission to investigate harassment of gays within the Metro Toronto Police Force. They demanded the resignation of Toronto Police Chief Harold Adamson if he was unable to control the behaviour of his officers. On June 25, a meeting was held by ReforMetro to discuss continuing police harassment of gays and other minorities. Rev. Brent Hawkes again called for the resignation of Chief Harold Adamson, and the meeting culminated in a spontaneous demonstration outside police headquarters.
Beginning with the December 9, 1979 raid on the Barracks bathhouse, the RTPC continued to support men charged in future raids bawdy house offences. This included the October 11, 1979 raid on the Hot Tub Club, 9 Isabella Street, four apartments, and a cottage in Northumberland County, however larger raids occurred later.
On February 5, 1981, after six months of preparation, Metro Toronto Police simultaneously raided four of the city’s most prominent steam baths and charged 304 men as found-ins and 20 men as keepers. It was both the largest raid against gay establishments at that time, and the biggest mass arrest in Toronto’s history after the War Measures Act of 1970.In response to the raids, which police had codenamed Operation Soap, the RTPC with the Coalition for Gay Rights, the Metropolitan Community Church, and the Body Politic, organized a demonstration for February 6, 1981. The demonstration, a march to Toronto police headquarters and then to the Ontario Legislature, grew from 300 people to 3,000 as the night went on. Eleven people were arrested as a result, and reports later revealed that several plainclothes officers acted as agents provocateurs during the demonstration, provoking protestors to acts of violence or destruction of property and then arresting them. The RTPC then formed a Public Action Committee and held a second demonstration, both of which called for the repeal of bawdy house laws.
Another large raid occurred on June 16, 1981 when twenty-three police officers simultaneously raided the International Steam Bath and the Back Door Gym and Sauna. Later, on June 20, 1981, the RTPC organized a demonstration. As the peaceful demonstration of around 1,000 people was ending, a group of protestors leaving the demonstration were attacked on the corner of Church and Charles by an anti-gay group. When the peaceful demonstrators fought back, police rescued the anti-gay group while turning their nightsticks against the demonstrators. Six people were injured, and six people were arrested. The event later became known as The Battle of Church Street. Rev. Brent Hawkes and Ken Popert were injured by the police, but both failed in their attempts to press charges.
In 1981, due to an increase in violence against gays, the RTPC founded the Toronto Gay Street Patrol, a group of gay and lesbian men and women trained in self-defence, which patrolled various neighbourhoods and attempted to protect gay and lesbians from attack, or gay bashing, and to deal with the sometimes negative attitudes of police after an attack had been reported. The group was helmed by Dennis Findlay.In further attempts to protect gays and lesbians, the RTPC also established, in July 1982, Gay Court Watch. Gay Court Watch sent volunteers to observe gay-related trials, especially trials related to the bawdy house law and various bathhouse raids. The group also regularly published reports on the frequency and location of arrests related to gay crimes in the Body Politic and Xtra!, and published pocket reference guides of places to avoid for safe, semi-public sex in Toronto. Gay Court Watch was active until December, 1991.
In order to oversee the large amounts of funding raised to defend men charged during the bath raids, the RTPC established the Right to Privacy Foundation to ensure the equitable distribution of money. The RTPC had raised over $80,000 the year after the raids through events, dances, and direct mail campaigns.
The RTPC participated in many other demonstrations, conferences and campaigns, including:
The RTPC has made submissions to the following:
Periodicals associated with RTPC include:
Church and Wellesley is an LGBT-oriented enclave in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is roughly bounded by Gerrard Street to the south, Yonge Street to the west, Charles Street to the north, and Jarvis Street to the east, with the core commercial strip located along Church Street from Wellesley south to Alexander. Though some gay and lesbian oriented establishments can be found outside this area, the general boundaries of this village have been defined by the Gay Toronto Tourism Guild.
A gay bathhouse, also known as a gay sauna or a gay steambath, is a commercial space for men to have sex with other men. In gay slang, a bathhouse may be called just "the baths", "the sauna" or "the tubs". In general, a gay bath is used for having sexual activity rather than only bathing.
This is a list of notable events in the history of LGBT rights that took place in the year 1981.
Operation Soap was a raid by the Metropolitan Toronto Police against four gay bathhouses in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which took place on February 5, 1981. Just less than three hundred men were arrested, the largest mass arrest in Canada since the 1970 October crisis, before the record was broken during the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Edmonton, Alberta.
The Body Politic was a Canadian monthly magazine, which was published from 1971 to 1987. It was one of Canada's first significant gay publications, and played a prominent role in the development of the LGBT community in Canada.
David Boothby was last Chief of Police of the Metro Toronto Police 1995–1997, and first Chief of the Toronto Police Service, from 1998 to 2000.
George Hislop was one of Canada's most influential gay activists. He was one of the earliest openly gay candidates for political office in Canada, and was a key figure in the early development of Toronto's gay community.
The Libertarian Party of Canada ran a number of candidates in the 1993 federal election, none of whom were elected. Information about these candidates may be found here.
Rites was a Canadian magazine, published for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities in Canada from 1984 to 1992.
John Wesley Ackroyd was a prominent Canadian Chief of Police and high level Ontario civil servant. He served as the chief of the Metro Toronto Police Force from 1980 to 1984. Known as an ideas man, and 'kind cop' he introduced community policing when he was the deputy chief. Though later, during his term as the chief, the biggest mass civilian arrest since the Second World War occurred in Toronto's Gay district. Following his retirement from the police force, he was head of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario from 1984 to 1990, where he modernized the retail operations and its marketing.
This is a timeline of notable events in the history of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Canada. For a broad overview of LGBT history in Canada see LGBT history in Canada.
The Brunswick Four were four lesbians involved in an historic incident in Toronto, Ontario in 1974. The four were evicted from the Brunswick House, a working-class beer hall on Bloor Street, and subsequently arrested, and three were later tried in Ontario Court for obstruction of justice. Two of those three women were acquitted in May 1974, but one, Adrienne Potts, served three months probation.
Club Baths was a chain of gay bathhouses in the United States and Canada with particular prominence from the 1960s through the 1990s.
David Rayside is a Canadian academic and activist. He was a professor of political science at the University of Toronto until his retirement in 2013, and was the founding director of the university's Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies from 2004 to 2008.
Ken Popert has been involved with Pink Triangle Press (PTP) since 1973 when he began contributing to The Body Politic. In 1986 he was appointed interim publisher of PTP, and he served as the Executive Director until April 3, 2017 when he was succeeded by David Walberg. An established queer liberation activist, Popert has been fighting for sexual liberation for almost 40 years. Popert lives in Toronto and is partnered with Brian Mossop, an activist in his own right for his 1993 case against the Government of Canada. In addition to his role at PTP, Popert serves as a board director of OUTtv and the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives.
This article gives a broad overview of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) history in Canada. LGBT activity was considered a crime from the colonial period in Canada until 1969, when Bill C-150 was passed into law. However, there is still discrimination despite anti-discrimination law. For a more detailed listing of individual incidents in Canadian LGBT history, see also Timeline of LGBT history in Canada.
Gerald Hannon is a Canadian journalist whose work has appeared in major Canadian magazines and newspapers.
Peter Maloney is a Canadian lawyer, businessman, activist and former politician, most noted as one of the first Canadian political figures ever to come out as gay and as a prominent builder of Toronto's LGBT community in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Pussy Palace Raid occurred on September 14th, 2000, when Toronto police raided a lesbian bathhouse known as the "Pussy Palace" during the "2000 Pussies" event. Two undercover female police officers attended and investigated the event prior to the raid. Five plainclothes male police officers then entered and searched the club, including private rooms. There were around 350 women in attendance at the time, many of whom were nude or semi-clad.
The We Demand Rally was the first large scale gay rights demonstration in Canada. The rally occurred on August 28, 1971 in Ottawa, and was organized by the gay rights activist groups Toronto Gay Action (TGA) and Community Homophile Association of Toronto (CHAT). There was a parallel rally in Vancouver that was organized in solidarity with the rally by the Vancouver group Gay Alliance Toward Equality (GATE). The rally plays an important part in the history of queer equity-seeking and gay rights in Canada, as well as the history of feminism in Canada, and has had a lasting legacy in Canadian gay rights activism.