SOME TORONTO GAY HISTORY
On February 5, 1981, local police conducted Operation Soap and raided every gay bathhouse in Toronto. Police smashed and destroyed each of the venues and made over 300 men stand outside in the cold while they were humiliated by the local press. It was the biggest mass arrest in Canadian history.
The event, officially known as The Bath Raids but locally remembered as “our Stonewall” was a catalyst for a local gay rights movement. Before then, the community didn’t have a strong political identity. Largely focused around bars, it had never had a formal community meeting. The bath raids inspired thousands to band together. Peaceful but persistent, their ongoing protests helped to channel the community’s anger. Organisations sprang up to defend the men, bar patrons turned into activists, and an official Pride began as a picnic in June, 1981. Today, Toronto’s annual Pride celebration attracts over 1.2 million attendees, making it one of the largest Pride events in the world.