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Thursday, February 03, 2011

1981 Was A Watershed Year For The Gay Liberation Movement In Canada

Written by Matt Mills


(Canada) On Feb 5, 1981, 30 years ago, more than 150 Toronto police descended on that city’s gay bathhouses, arresting more than 300 innocent men. It was part of a deliberate and organized campaign by government and police to push gay baths and bars out of business, to silence the gay press and to remove gay voices from public discourse. Gay people were not new to discrimination in 1975 when Montreal police raided that city’s Sauna Aquarius. But that is really where the story of the 1981 bathhouse riots starts. For at least the next six years, police in various cities across the country steadily increased their harassment of the gay press and gay men in gay spaces.

Gay people had, of course, previously fought police harassment, but the events in Toronto in the first half of 1981 were watershed for the liberation movement in Canada. The activist chops refined then equipped gay people across the country to fight censorship, win partnership and employment rights, demand reasonable treatment from government, face HIV/AIDS, fight homophobic violence and win marriage rights.

Read more at Daily Xtra

Related 

Track Two is a documentary film about the 1981 Toronto bath house raids and riots and the events that precipitated them. It is a rare and unique record of a watershed moment in the gay liberation movement in Canada.

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