Police to Apologize for Canada's 'Stonewall Moment'
1981 raids targeting gay men sparked gay rights movement
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2016 12:05 PM CDT
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders.   (Victor Biro/The Canadian Press via AP)

(Newser) – Some 35 years after police targeted gay men in a series of raids on bathhouses, Toronto’s gay community will finally get an apology. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders is expected to deliver an official apology Wednesday for the Feb. 5, 1981, raids on four bathhouses—known as Operation Soap—during which 160 officers armed with crowbars and sledgehammers arrested 286 men on charges of indecency and prostitution, reports CTV News. About 90% of charges were dropped, but not before closeted men had their names and photos broadcast around the country. Many lost relationships and jobs as a result, a LGBT researcher tells the Globe and Mail.

"It was incredibly scary," one man tells the CBC. "We thought this was a safe place just like the LGBT people in Orlando thought that they were in safe place." But "in a way, it was our Stonewall moment in Canada, and really, the beginning of the major push for equality of LGBT rights." Thousands protested the next day, leading author Margaret Atwood and others to speak out in support of the gay community. The city's first Pride event came that June, per the CBC. Toronto police are also expected to apologize for a 2000 raid on a women’s bathhouse event, which saw male officers encounter nude women, reports the Toronto Star. While many say the apologies will be a step in the right direction, others say the focus should be on eradicating what some view as homophobic legislation.