Toronto Bathhouse Raids (1981)
On 5 February 1981, patrons of four bathhouses in downtown Toronto (The Barracks, The Club, Richmond Street Health Emporium, and Roman II Health and Recreation Spa) were surprised by 200 police officers in a series of coordinated raids, called “Operation Soap.” Law enforcement officials claimed the raids resulted from six months of undercover work into alleged sex work and other “indecent acts” at each establishment. Bathhouse patrons were subjected to excessive behaviour by police, including verbal taunts about their sexuality. When the night was over, 286 men were charged for being found in a common bawdy house (a brothel), while 20 were charged for operating a bawdy house. It was, up to that time, the largest single arrest in Toronto’s history. Most of those arrested were found innocent of the charges. The raids marked a turning point for Toronto’s gay community, as the protests that followed indicated they would no longer endure derogatory treatment from the police, media and the public.