Last week, undercover officers laid 89 charges against 72 people, mostly men, at Marie Curtis Park. Dressed to be unrecognized as police, they attended the park and engaged with the men there. In a city coping with increased opiate drug trafficking, a rise in shootings, and a spate of deadly pedestrian collisions, what crime was so significant as to get this level of attention? The answer is largely men having consensual sex with men.
I believe it is important not to detract from the concerns west end residents have about this park. Parks should be for everyone and there is understandable frustration around parents keeping their children from encountering sex in a public space. However, there is a long memory in the LGBTQ2S community regarding inappropriate entrapment and disproportionate use of force by police against it.
Over the past few weeks, important questions have been raised regarding the role of protest in the Toronto Pride parade, the relationship of police to the full spectrum of the LGBTQ2S community and, particularly, the needs of Queer and Trans persons of colour. I have been encouraged by the many nuanced and challenging conversations that this has inspired in the broader community. However, I have also been disappointed to see several City Councillors enter this debate from an uninformed perspective, and make political hay from a painful and necessary community conversation.
The statement of regret by Chief Mark Saunders on the 1981 gay bathhouse raids this week was an important step towards mending a historic wrong that was done in our City. While many are pleased to see the Toronto Police expressing regret, we still have some ways to go in addressing the lives that were ruined. I believe we still need to see a more meaningful apology with proper restitution.
Today in one of the most followed cases of the year, Mr. Ghomeshi was found not guilty on all charges related to sexual violence. Before anything, I would like to speak to the survivors of this case and all women who have been subject to sexual violence. While I respect the rule of law and the legitimacy of our criminal justice system, I recognize that sometimes the difference between the legal guilt and factual guilt is pronounced. Therefore, I am of the firm belief that today’s result shall not in any way undermine or repudiate the reality of what has happened to you. We believe you - and we thank you for inspiring us with your courage by coming forward to tell your story and to fight for the belief that no matter how many years have passed, or how wealthy or well-respected the abuser is, sexual violence will not be tolerated in Canada. Thank you for leading the way.
This week there is an occupation at the Toronto Police headquarters on College Street. While this protest may be new, the call to action certainly is not. Black Lives Matter, community outreach workers, and our own mental health agencies have been telling us for some time that something is wrong. The message is clear to me: Black, Indigenous and racialized minorities, especially those suffering from mental illness, too often die as a result of their interactions with authorities.
Today I was sad to hear of the passing of a colleague. Rob Ford, City Councillor for Ward 2 and former Mayor, has long been an active voice on City Council. In addition to his dedication to his office, it was obvious that Rob held a deep appreciation for both his community and his family. His work and commitment was evident in the efforts he made to personally champion constituents’ concerns, promote youth sports, and push for the highest standards of public service.
I am extending my sincere sympathies to those who were directly affected by the shooting in the Eaton Centre.
I am particularly saddened by the death of one young man and the serious injuries caused to seven others, who have been and continue to be treated in our hospitals.