LGBTQ advocates want apology for years of Montreal police raids
Years after a series of violent police raids targeted Montreal’s gay bars, a city councillor has put forward a motion asking for an official apology.
Projet Montreal councillor Richard Ryan said Montreal’s history of police harassment towards the LGBTQ community remains a stain on the city that requires an apology.
Throughout the '70s, '80s and '90s, police were frequently aggressive towards gays and lesbians, including the infamous raid on the Sex Garage gay club.
Early in the morning of July 16, 1990, police ordered the evacuation of the club based on the premise it was selling alcohol.
There was no alcohol in the club, but patrons were not allowed to return. Instead several dozen officers insulted the patrons, then began to assault them at random. Several people were beaten and then charged with assaulting police officers.
LGBTQ festival Divers/Cité founder Puelo Deir was at the club that night.
“I felt the oppression when I was in a club when the police came in with their machine guns and billyclubs and I’ll tell you, it was terrifying,” he said. “It ruined lives. People committed suicide over this, people were brought into court and were criminalized. Times have changed and they owe us an apology.”
During a protest the following night, dozens of officers once again assaulted demonstrators and one person was hospitalized.
Projet Montreal leader Valerie Plante said it is time to apologize for the mistakes of the past.
"It's important to acknowledge some of the mistakes made in the past, that there was some systemic harassment being done over sexual orientation," said Plante. "Because it's Pride Week, we think it's important to acknowledge and raise awareness of past fights the community had to do to be recognized and respected."
In Toronto, police chief Mark Saunders apologized in June, 2016 for a 1981 raid on bathhouses that resulted in the arrest of 300 gay men. Employees, owners and patrons all faced a variety of charges, 90 per cent of which were later dropped.
Montreal police officials told CTV they are examining the request.
Mayor Denis Coderre had no comment.
Deir, who is the grand marshal of this year's Pride parade, believes an apology would go a long way.
"The people who suffered during those times, the people who are still alive it will be such a great weight off their shoulders and it will buoy our community," said Deir.
Projet Montreal would also like to see a special site dedicated to those who have fought homophobia and transphobia over several decades.