On February 5, 1981, at approximately 11pm, 4 bathhouses
were raided in Toronto, and 286 gay men were arrested for “indecent
acts” in an attack referred to as “Operation Soap”. These
victims were infuriated at this violation of their privacy and basic human
rights. The next night, an estimated 3,000 people marched in a protest against
the police in support of the gay community. This event has been dubbed
“Canada’s Stonewall”. This protest was only the beginning of Canada’s
fight for gay rights against the police, and the empowerment of the LGBTQ+
At the time,
hundreds of the victims were traumatized, as they were physically and verbally
abused during the raids. Though, this was a ground-breaking event in that so
many allies and members of the gay community came out to fight. What were the
impacts of the Toronto bathhouse raids? While these raids caused the
destruction of the safe spaces that were the bathhouses, they also created new
ones through the annual Toronto Pride Parade.2 Not to mention, while
police relations with the queer community were clearly poor at the time,
sensitivity training is now in place, and the police have recently acknowledged
and apologized for their faults.3 This is vital to Canada as
it is well known as a huge event in the history of many Canadians’ stories.
famous bathhouse raids changed the history of Canada’s LGBTQ+ community forever.
Although these raids caused lasting trauma, the community found empowerment in
their oppression, vastly improving police relations, and creating safe spaces
to replace those destroyed in 1981.
Bradburn, “Toronto Feature: Bathhouse Raids.” The Canadian
Encyclopedia. Accessed January 16, 2018.
2 Chris Bateman, “A Brief History of
Pride in Toronto.” BlogTO. Accessed January 16, 2018.
3 Jessica Murphy, “Toronto Police
Chief to Apologize for 1981 Gay Bathhouse Raids.” The Guardian. Accessed
January 16, 2018