While America had its “Stonewall” moment, Canada had “Operation Soap“. Multi Bathhouse Raids across the city of Toronto became the turning point in the gay liberation movement in Canada.
Tim McCaskell, a gay rights activist, was there the night of the raids.
“Police had arrived with crowbars and sledgehammers and were basically ripping things apart and knocking down doors,” he told CityNews’ Audra Brown back in 2016 for a story marking the 35th anniversary of the raids.
“It wasn’t as if the places had ever been considered illegal before and suddenly they were being charged with the offense of being found in a common bawdy house. Most people had no idea what a bawdy house was.”
“We had policeman, shoulder-to-shoulder, with batons and there was this very intense standoff with people screaming at them,” recalled McCaskell.
“It was decided it would be good to hold something in the day, it would be more family friendly, that people could come out to who went into confronting the police,” McCaskell explained.
It would take 35 years for the police to formally apologize to the gay community for the bathhouse raids
Then-police chief Mark Saunders expressed “regrets” on behalf of the Toronto Police Service for its role in the raids.
“It is also an occasion to acknowledge the lessons learned about the risks of treating any part of Toronto’s many communities as not fully part of society,” said Saunders. “The lessons from that period have continuing relevance for the creation of a more inclusive city.”