Toronto Police Raid Offices of Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Police in Toronto raided the editorial offices of the influential Canadian gay newspaper The Body Politic, charging staff members with distributing obscene material after they published an article on intergenerational sex. The article, “Men Loving Boys Loving Men,” was the opening salvo of a several-year battle with police, the courts, and the media.

Summary of Event

On December 31, 1977, members of Operation P, a joint Toronto and Ontario police unit set up to investigate pornography, raided the offices of The Body Politic (TBP), removing twelve boxes of materials and later charging TBP staff with possessing and distributing obscene material. Police had been informed of an article, “Men Loving Boys Loving Men,” "Men Loving Boys Loving Men" (Hannon)[Men Loving Boys Loving Men] Pedophilia published in the December, 1977/January, 1978 issue of TBP. [kw]Toronto Police Raid Offices of The Body Politic (Dec. 31, 1977) [kw]Police Raid Offices of The Body Politic, Toronto (Dec. 31, 1977) [kw]Raid Offices of The Body Politic, Toronto Police (Dec. 31, 1977) [kw]Body Politic, Toronto Police Raid Offices of The (Dec. 31, 1977) Body Politic, The (periodical) Police abuse and harassment;of gay publishers[gay publishers] Toronto Police Service raids [c]Publications;Dec. 31, 1977: Toronto Police Raid Offices of The Body Politic[1230] [c]Laws, acts, and legal history;Dec. 31, 1977: Toronto Police Raid Offices of The Body Politic[1230] [c]Civil rights;Dec. 31, 1977: Toronto Police Raid Offices of The Body Politic[1230] [c]Marches, protests, and riots;Dec. 31, 1977: Toronto Police Raid Offices of The Body Politic[1230] [c]Organizations and institutions;Dec. 31, 1977: Toronto Police Raid Offices of The Body Politic[1230] Hannon, Gerald Popert, Ken Jackson, Ed McMurtry, Roy Hoy, Claire

The article’s author, Gerald Hannon, had interviewed men who had engaged in sex with boys. In a nonjudgmental tone, Hannon wrote about his discussions with men such as “Simon,” a thirty-three-year-old primary school teacher with a twelve-year-old lover, a student in his class. Hannon acknowledged that Simon was “exactly the person families most worry about,” as Simon described forming “sexual, loving relationships with boys” in all four of the schools in which he had taught. Simon admitted that his sex acts with boys “form a kind of sex education”; Simon said that he wanted to “liberate” his “kids a little bit and help them find their own sexual direction.”

Toronto Sun Toronto Sun (newspaper) newspaper editors and its columnist, Claire Hoy, informed Toronto police about the article. Hoy, a vocal critic of TBP, wrote a column (the first of many critical columns), which appeared in the December 22 edition of the Sun, titled “Our Taxes Help Homosexuals Promote Abuse of Children.” The piece also condemned Ontario arts funding for TBP. The first week of 1978, the paper was charged under Section 164 of the criminal code: the “use of mails to transmit immoral, indecent and scurrilous material.”

The following day, a defense fund was started to aid TBP. San Francisco city and county supervisor Harvey Milk soon called for a tourist boycott of Toronto. On January 5, 1978, the Ontario crown attorney charged TBP and staff members Ken Popert, Ed Jackson, and Gerald Hannon with possessing and distributing obscene material, and they were tried the following month. Beginning one year later, in January of 1979, was a series of trials, acquittals, and retrials of TBP.

In the ruling of February 14, 1978, TBP and its directors were acquitted of obscenity charges. On March 6, 1979, the attorney general’s office announced that it would appeal the acquittal, citing errors in law made by the trial judge, and on February 29, 1980, TBP’s 1979 acquittal was set aside and a new trial was ordered. Attempts by TBP to overturn this decision failed, and in May of 1982, TBP was again on trial.

On June 15, 1982, though, the court again acquitted TBP of all charges. Hoping to overturn this second acquittal, the attorney general appealed the decision but the court rejected the application in September of 1983. On October 15, with the passing of the deadline for any further appeals by the attorney general, TBP’s six-year legal fight came to an end.

A look at events taking place before the TBP raid can help to place the actions of the attorney general and Toronto police, as well as the media coverage, into context. The raid and subsequent media attention show that there existed a growing anxiety about the visibility of Toronto’s gay and lesbian community and a fear of gay and lesbian teachers and gay-positive education in the schools. On July 21, 1977, the Ontario Human Rights Commission had suggested for the first time that sexual orientation be protected from discrimination. Toronto newspapers were generally favorable, but they also argued that schools should be exempt so as to prevent homosexual teachers from promoting their “lifestyle.” The “Save Our Children” campaign of American antigay activist Anita Bryant in Florida, who feared “what they [homosexuals] can do to our children as role models in teaching,” had been slated to visit Toronto in January of 1978.

About six months before Bryant’s planned visit, a twelve-year-old named Emanuel Jaques, Jaques, Emanuel a shoeshine boy working on Toronto’s Yonge Street, had disappeared. Days later, on August 1, Jaques’s body was found. He had been murdered after being sexually assaulted by four men. Jaques’s murder strengthened calls to cleanup Yonge Street, an area dominated by sex-related businesses, and to crack down on gays in Toronto because they threatened young people.

Significance

As Toronto newspapers debated human rights protections for gays and lesbians (but not gay and lesbian teachers) and Toronto citizens expressed outrage over Jaques’s murder, TBP had published its piece on “men loving boys.” Writer Gerald Hannon noted that the “man-boy” story, which had been written months before Jaques was killed, also had seen a delay in its publication, as the timing would have been ill-conceived. Hannon concluded that “the climate will never be right” and “the tide must be resisted, the discussion must be opened up.”

The Jaques murder was politically useful to city and police officials, who chose to close Yonge Street sex shops in favor of “legitimate businesses”; the shops could be closed without question. After TBP ran the controversial article, Toronto police initiated a campaign of harassment, raids, and entrapment against the gay community. The police action culminated in a series of bathhouse raids Bathhouse raids on February 5, 1981, in which hundreds of men were arrested. Yet the lesbian and gay community made it known they had seen enough. With the rallying cry of “No More Shit,” three thousands gays, lesbians, and supporters protested the following night, and four thousand took to the streets the next night as well. Soon, the Toronto lesbian and gay community began a concerted effort to end years of police harassment and public insult. Many would come to describe those nights of protest as “Toronto’s Stonewall.”

On December 16, 1986, the collective decided to cease publication of The Body Politic, citing financial and other reasons. The last issue came out in February of 1987. Body Politic, The (periodical) Police abuse and harassment;of gay publishers[gay publishers] Toronto Police Service raids

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. http://www.clga.ca/. Extensive collection of related materials on the raid and the newspaper in general.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hannon, Gerald. “Men Loving Boys Loving Men.” The Body Politic 39 (December, 1977/January, 1978). Reprinted in Flaunting It! A Decade of Gay Journalism from the Body Politic, edited by Ed Jackson and Stan Perksy. Vancouver, B.C.: New Star, 1982.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kinsman, G. The Regulation of Desire: Homo and Hetero Sexualities. 2d rev. ed. Montreal, Ont.: Black Rose Books, 1996.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">McLeod, Donald W. Lesbian and Gay Liberation in Canada: A Selected Annotated Chronology, 1964-1975. Toronto, Ont.: ECW Press, 1996.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ng, Y. Ideology, Media, Moral Panics: An Analysis of the Jaques Murder. Unpublished master’s thesis. Centre for Criminology, York University, Canada, 1981.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Streitmatter, Rodger. Unspeakable: The Rise of the Gay and Lesbian Press in America. Winchester, Mass.: Faber and Faber, 1995.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Warner, Tom. Never Going Back: A History of Queer Activism in Canada. Buffalo, N.Y.: University of Toronto Press, 2002.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

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November, 1971: The Body Politic Begins Publication

1977: Anita Bryant Campaigns Against Gay and Lesbian Rights

December 19, 1977: Quebec Includes Lesbians and Gays in Its Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms

February 5, 1981: Toronto Police Raid Gay Bathhouses

January 1, 1988: Canada Decriminalizes Sex Practices Between Consenting Adults

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