June 28, 2016

Source: Bigstock

Memory is a funny thing: Like lots of locals of my generation and older, the bathhouse raids will always be conflated with another, far more serious, event. When the “€œOperation Soap”€ apology was announced, this reaction on Facebook was representative:

What led up to the cleanup of those Bathhouses and other gay hangouts?

I was living in Toronto in 1977 and I vividly remember the rape and murder of a 12-year-old Emanuel Jaques, a shoeshine boy.

The shock and outrage that followed the murder of Emanuel Jaques led to efforts to clean up the downtown strip.

So pardon me if I shed NO TEARS, or feel no remorse over the cleanup of a den of sexual deviants and predators!

Yet it wasn”€™t until I started writing this column that I realized the Jaques murder”€”after which it was declared that Toronto the Good had “€œlost its innocence“€”€”had occurred almost four years before those bathhouse raids. In fact, just days after the boy’s body was discovered on the roof of a downtown “€œbody rub parlor,”€ some Yonge Street hustlers reported that life on the strip was mostly back to “€œnormal.”€

Now, obviously it would be intellectually dishonest to link these two events.

Yet clearly that’s what I and frankly everyone I know have done.

Perhaps because one of the killers confessed first to a local gay activist.

Perhaps because the city’s peasantlike Portuguese community, from which the boy came”€”normally invisible even during that era of cloying ethnic pride”€”marched too, over 10,000 strong, shouting things we”€™d call “€œhomophobic”€ “€œhate speech”€ today.

But even then, while many ordinary folks cheered them on, others ridiculed those marchers. Big shots in the Portuguese community, as well as a few “€œreal”€ Canadians, scolded them to stop making such spectacles of themselves.

I wonder if I”€™ll live to see gays apologize for violating other people’s rights to privacy and free association, simply for refusing to bake a cake or go along quietly with transgender bathrooms or whatever the next “€œSalem, not Selma“€ fad turns out to be.

I do know there isn”€™t an annual parade for Emanuel Jaques.

And anyhow, “€œwhen you speak to any gay man in Toronto about the case, the first thing they say is the boy was no saint.”€


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