Tag Archives: CLAGPAG

In Hot Water: The Court Battle

Terry Haldane, Stephen Lock & the 2002 Goliath’s Bathhouse Raid

At around 2:30 PM on a Thursday, Calgary Police Service officers invaded one of our community’s safe havens, Goliath’s Bathhouse. This surprise raid occurred on December 12, 2002. In this series of blog posts, we will delve into the history of the Goliath’s raid. Along the way, we will explore injustice, changing queer culture and our complicated relationship with the police, past and present.

Read Part 1: The Raid: here.

Part 2: The Court Battle

January 10th, 2013, was the first court appearance; Terry pleaded not guilty. Facing a potential of five years in jail, Terry faced trial for two years. Initially, due to the charge being a “sexual offence,” Terry was issued a “no-go order,” wherein he couldn’t enter the premises of Goliath’s or the Texas Lounge even for a drink with friends without risking arrest. However, the judge eventually dropped the no-go order, stating that it was a bogus charge, as the trial was pending: there was no reason he shouldn’t be able to get a drink. Regardless, the Texas Lounge and Goliath’s were closed for months.

Some of the tactics in the trial were underhanded, with the Crown not telling the defence lawyers about redactions in statements affecting the case and the police publicizing luminol evidence of semen and bloodstains on surfaces. The Crown also surveyed neighbouring establishments and people to get their opinion on the bathhouse being in their neighbourhood. This ended up backfiring on the Crown, as the general sentiment reflected in the survey was that neighbours were not concerned about the bathhouse as it wasn’t noisy. As well, there was no way for minors or members of the public to stumble in as the entry was double locked doors—it didn’t bother them men were having sex down there.

Prior to the raid, Goliath’s had been surveilled for six months. Retrospectively, patrons had noticed cars with people sitting in them near the premises, which was odd. Then, one night before the raid, Terry spoke to a young man in the shower who seemed nervous. The man stated that it was his first time there and asked if Terry could give him a tour of the place, and he did. Later, another patron commented to Terry that something seemed off with that guy. Terry replied that it was his first time, and the other guy said it was something else because if someone were nervous, they wouldn’t have asked for a tour.

That man turned out to be an undercover detective. When asked what he saw in court, the detective said he saw about 20 guys, that he saw a few guys watching TV, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, that kind of thing. When asked if he saw sexual activity in a public place, he said no, except he saw a man masturbating in his room with the door open, to which the judge replied something to the effect of “seriously? And that would be a problem; why? It’s a gay steambath; nobody else was there. What’s the big deal about that? That’s not even part of the evidence.” An undercover officer also spoke to co-owner Darrell, who told him something like, “all these men come to the bathhouse for sex, he keeps the place open, they drink, he didn’t know if guys are paid or not.” Terry supposed this exchange Darrell embellished to impress this man he didn’t know was an officer.

The police held a town hall meeting with the gay community at The Eagle leather bar following the raid. The community felt the meeting was pointless as the police would not divulge or admit anything, stating that the trial was still pending. Lots of anger was directed at the police for playing dirty. Mistrust between the gay community and the police peaked, which ran against the generally amicable relationship the two parties enjoyed before the raid.

For example, Terry and Stephen had been involved in three committees with the police, including the gay liaison committee, a drug committee, and a prostitution committee. In those years, a bridge was being built. The police participated in the gay rodeo, tried to recruit gay men as officers, and participated in Pride. The liaison committee existed to facilitate communication and cooperation between the police and the community.

There was a sense of betrayal of trust, especially on the liaison committee that they would do this raid—without warning. However, the order for the raid came from higher-ups, and the police liaison could not give the community advance notice. During the trial, Terry had to step back from his committee work. The general sense was that if he didn’t fight his case in court, it would virtually give the police a free pass to encroach on other gay establishments: the bridge between the two parties severely damaged.

Terry Haldane in Xtra.ca, November 12, 2003. Photo: Stevie Lee Anderson

On the public opinion front, Terry was able to push back thanks to the help of friendly media outlets. He appeared on several radio shows, including Speak Sebastian and Gene Rodman’s CGAY 92. He also appeared in print media, with one particularly poignant Xtra article featuring a racy picture of him in the shower taken by Stevie Lee Anderson aiming to “give them something to talk about.” A copy of the article was sent to Jack Beaton, the police chief at the time. Terry’s partner and activist Stephen also appeared in the media. The editor of Capital Xtra, based out of Ottawa, tried to get him to berate the police in an interview. However, Stephen would not, as he didn’t feel that the police deserved it, especially since they had both developed good, social relationships with many officers.

In general, Terry and Stephen felt that the response was stronger from other communities than from the Calgary gay scene. They had received letters of support from communities like Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal and New York City. The turnout at the town hall with the police was about 40-60 people. The community here generally avoided rocking the boat and turned the blame on victims, saying things like: “you shouldn’t have been down there anyway; it’s a terrible place.” When Stephen and Keith Purdy tried to organize a demonstration holding white towels in front of the Court of Queen’s Bench, only a handful of people showed up.

Stephen felt, in general, that Calgary’s gay community was relatively conservative or apolitical, that gay people here mainly were interested in going to the bar, going to Victoria’s for brunch, and cruising the park once in a while. He joked that he had a bruise from people poking a finger at him. He was often told, “you don’t speak for me” when working on issues like gay marriage with Egale, or pushing to get sexual orientation in provincial human rights legislation with the Calgary Lesbian and Gay Political Action Guild. For the Goliath’s event, this conservatism manifested in a lack of support or funds from those Terry called the “A-Gays:” wealthy, cocktail party hosting, privileged gay men he knew. Terry said they refused to sign cheques for the Goliath’s defence, not wanting to be associated with an “icky place like that,” despite the fact that Terry said he had seen several of them down at Goliath’s on multiple occasions.

The trial posed a major financial burden. Terry and Stephen paid over $75,000 towards the case, between fundraising and spending their own money. Thankfully, some of the legal work was done pro-bono, and the Egale Canada Defence Fund provided a sum of $60,000 to help with legal fees.

Eventually, in the next to last court appearance, the judge said that the case had to be moved along. Terry’s defence said that either the Crown had to dismiss the charges or that they were going to do a Charter rights challenge, which they would take to the Supreme Court if necessary. The judge chuckled and remarked that they were biting off quite a lot.

Three months and thousands of dollars later, at the final court hearing, the Crown gave the results of their survey and concluded that a conviction was unlikely, therefore they decided to stay the charges. This meant that if any new evidence were found in the next year, they would charge Terry again, but if not, charges would be dropped. Terry marked off the days on his calendar, and one year later, he was free.

Terry then returned to his police committee work and never held it against the police officers. He understood that they were following orders and did not mistreat anyone throughout the ordeal. Both Terry and Stephen maintained a staunchly pro-police stance and wished to see a return to the former cooperative relationship between them and the gay community, including their formal inclusion in Pride. Terry concluded that the Goliath’s ordeal didn’t sour him towards the police. What upset him was how this immense fallout happened due to an anonymous complaint left on an answering machine.

Next week: Part 3.

{SC}

Rocky Mountain Singers—Week 2

The Calgary Gay History Project recently presented the history of Calgary’s first LGBTQ2 chorus, the Rocky Mountain Singers (RMS). This is the second blog post exploring the history we uncovered as part of this commissioned research project (thanks to One Voice Chorus).

1990 proved to be a pivotal year for Calgary’s LGBT community. AIDS was in the ascendant, and the community was beginning to find its political voice—confronting the casual homophobia that was pervasive in the city. RMS had been practicing for less than a year but had scheduled their first big concert on June 22nd as part of Calgary’s growing Pride Week festivities.

RMS at the Pride Rally. Source: CBC Calgary

A few days before the concert, RMS participated in a Pride Rally in Central Memorial Park. The Calgary Lesbian and Gay Political Action Guild (CLAGPAG) organized the rally to agitate for LGBT human rights. In fact, this rally on Monday, June 18th, 1990, is considered Calgary Pride’s origin event. CLAGPAG handed out free lone ranger masks at the Old Y, and directed participants to gather at the Boer War Memorial for speeches and songs.

For some, the masks were a media stunt, but others worried about having their LGBT identity revealed. This concern was a reality RMS had to negotiate in the choir’s early years. Members had differing levels of comfort in being out, which affected their ability to perform in public or even have their name listed in the program.

The First RMS Concert Poster: made on a dot matrix printer by chorister Patrick O’Brien!

However, the concert went bravely ahead. Luke Shwart remembers: “Pride 1990 felt like our very first concert. It was set up cabaret-style and sold out. It went very well, but backstage the level of anticipation was through the roof! People were terrified about walking out there and performing—there was a great sense of exhilaration, accomplishment and relief afterward.”

The concert was a hit. Karen Whyte in Modern Pink Magazine wrote, “a special highlight of [Pride] week was the outstanding performance by Rocky Mountain Singers. Over 200 people attended the concert, and everyone loved it!”

Later that summer, 15 RMS choristers flew to Vancouver for the Gay Games. They participated in the Festival Chorus: a choir for anyone who wanted to sing and was coming to the Games. The Gay Choral movement had been spreading across North America, and hundreds came to sing.

The Festival Chorus was directed by choral conductor Carol White from Denver, Colorado. The Calgarians in attendance found the experience electrifying—the sheer volume of that many voices was profound.

Patrick O’Brien remembers: “We had to learn about 14 songs. One of the songs was called Living With AIDS. It had a hymn-like quality. Carol directed it professionally—cutting it into bits for us to practice. At one point, she paused and said, ‘If there is anybody who is comfortable standing up who is currently living with AIDS—can we as a group collectively acknowledge your strength?’ RMS member Karl Siegfried stood up, and then and men started standing up everywhere in their sections. It was an amazing, powerful moment. I think the women from our chorus looked around and thought: what do you know….”

Part of the Vancouver Festival Chorus in Rehearsal
Carol White conducting the Festival Chorus at the Gay Games Closing Ceremonies. Source: communitystories.ca

The Festival Chorus rehearsed every morning for a week. They performed at the Gay Games opening ceremonies on August 4th, marched in the Pride Parade on August 6th, gave an evening concert on August 10th and delivered a final performance at the closing ceremonies on August 11th.

The Gay Games ended with Carnaval! A fantasy parade. Fantastical creatures and people in extravagant costumes led the audience, choristers and athletes, out of the stadium and towards the Plaza of Nations for one last party together. The exhilarated Rocky Mountain Singers had found joy in a larger community and new energy and purpose for their fledgling Calgary chorus.

{KA}

Vriend vs. Alberta

In 1982 the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gave all Canadians equal rights “regardless of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.” However, the Charter was initially silent on sexual orientation.  It was not until November 1989 when the Federal Court of Canada first accepted sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Charter. It ruled that Timothy Veysey, a gay prison inmate in Ontario had the right to conjugal visits with his same-sex partner.

Up until then, Canadian Courts had mostly manifested a double-standard in discrimination cases. Discrimination based on race or religion, for example, was clearly defined and remedied. Homosexuality, on the other hand, was up for debate whether it could be a protected ground at all. Judges either deferred to society’s objection to homosexuality, based on diffuse religious grounds: “rebutting a millennium of moral teaching ” or punted it back to legislators to decide.

In December 1987, Delwin Vriend began working for King’s College: A Christian Liberal Arts College in Edmonton. Throughout his employment, he was given positive evaluations, salary increases and promotions for his work performance. On February 20th, 1990 in conversation with the President of the College, Delwin was asked about his sexual orientation. He disclosed he was gay. Causing much anguish and hand-wringing, the College developed a position statement on homosexuality which was adopted by its Board of Governors on January 11th, 1991. Shortly after that, the College asked Vriend to voluntarily resign – he would be paid 3 months severance. He declined and was fired.

{Read the King’s College Memo of Jan 14, 1991, communicating its position statement on homosexuality: here. Source Library and Archives Canada}

Within weeks, Gay and Lesbian Awareness (GALA), an Edmonton-based civil rights organization, began organizing actions to “respond to this dreadful and unacceptable firing.” With Delwin’s support, they set up a “Delwin Vriend Defense Fund” to assist with legal costs, and began soliciting donations from the community.

In June of that year, Vriend and GALA tried to file a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission on the grounds that his employer discriminated against him due to his sexual orientation. The Commission gave Vriend a pass explaining he could not make a claim because the Individual Rights Protection Act (IRPA) did not include sexual orientation as a protected ground.

In early 1994, GALA wrote to their sister organization, the Calgary Lesbian and Gay Political Action Guild (CLAGPAG) seeking moral and financial support to sue the Government of Alberta. They need $6,000 more dollars to take the case to the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Financial support rolled in and on April 13th, 1994, Judge Anne Russell decisively ruled that Alberta’s human rights law was inconsistent with the Charter of Rights. In her decision, she wrote: “Regardless of whether there was any intent to discriminate, the effect of the decision to deny homosexuals recognition under the legislation is to reinforce negative stereotyping and prejudice thereby perpetuating and implicitly condoning its occurrence.” The Alberta Human Rights Commission would now have to investigate discrimination cases based on sexual orientation.

On May 5th, the Government of Alberta appealed Russell’s decision and asked the courts to freeze the Human Rights Commission’s new mandate.

The Alberta Court of Appeal ruled 2-1 in favour of the Government, against Vriend, on February 23, 1996. Justice John McClung made national headlines with the sensational phrasing he used in his decision, including the number of times he used the word “morality.” He was bold enough to invoke both sodomy and a link to serial killers Dahmer, Bernardo, and Olsen. He wrote: “I am unable to conclude that it was a forbidden, let alone a reversible legislative response, for the province of Alberta to step back from the validation of homosexual relations, including sodomy, as a protected and fundamental right, thereby, ‘rebutting a millennium of moral teaching.'”

This mobilized Alberta’s gay community into action like no other court case had before. Fundraising efforts redoubled, and there were cheers heard when on March 6, 1996, Vriend decided to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada which agreed to hear the case. Garden parties, garage sales, collection plates at gay bars – there were solicitations for the Delwin Vriend Defense Fund seemingly everywhere.

On November 4th, 1997, the Supreme Court hearings began. The Court heard from 17 interveners including provincial governments, religious organizations and civil liberties groups. Alberta Premier Ralph Klein pandering to his socially conservative base threatened to invoke the notwithstanding clause (section 33 of the Charter) in order to override any defeat the Court might deliver. The entire country appeared to be hooked on the Court Case and vitriol filled newspapers and airwaves.

Then on the morning of April 2, 1998, the Supreme Court was about to deliver its verdict. Vriend recalled: “I remember standing outside the door of the lawyer’s office in Edmonton, just after nine o’clock in the morning. I just couldn’t bring myself to step inside. Then I heard the cheers from inside the office, and I just started crying.”

delwin-vriend-after-winning-his-case-against-alberta.jpg

Victorious Vriend at a News Scrum on April 2nd, 1998: Source CBC News Edmonton

The Supreme Court minced Appeal Justice McClung’s previous legal arguments and ruled unanimously in favour of Vriend. They wrote that the exclusion of homosexuals from Alberta’s Individual Rights Protection Act was a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

They further wrote: “the exclusion from the IRPA’s protection sends a message to all Albertans that it is permissible, and perhaps even acceptable, to discriminate against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation. Perhaps most important is the psychological harm which may ensue from this state of affairs. In excluding sexual orientation from the IRPA’s protection, the government has, in effect, stated that “all persons are equal in dignity and rights” except gay men and lesbians. Such a message, even if it is only implicit, must offend” Section 15 of the Charter.

At a press conference later that day Vriend said: “Shame on you, Ralph Klein, shame on you (Treasurer) Stockwell Day. You had until 7:45 this morning to do the right thing, and you demonstrated to the very end that you are not a government of the people. You are a government against the people. Haha, I win!” to the applause of supporters.

Vriend kiss

Delwin Vriend, right, gets a congratulatory kiss from partner Andrew Gagnon at a post-verdict rally at the Edmonton Legislature. [Photo Credit: The Canadian Press/Kevin Frayer]

Federal Justice Minister Anne McLellan said she was pleased with the judgment: “I believe profoundly that all Canadians, including Albertans, do not see it as appropriate to discriminate on the basis of someone’s sexual orientation.” The ruling immediately had a similar effect on Prince Edward Island and the Northwest Territories, the only two other jurisdictions that had not included sexual orientation in their human rights laws by then.

Many Calgarians were jubilant that night, filling gay bars to capacity. Local television journalists were doing live newsfeeds from the bars too, fervently trying to get a soundbite from joyous revellers.

Vriend, emotionally drained from the long unfolding court cases, would shortly thereafter move to Paris, France. He explained that he had had a lifetime’s fill of media attention, demonstrations, protests and hate mail.

The Vriend decision proved to be of great importance to future legal battles in Canada. It was specifically used to argue provincial cases against bans on same-sex marriage throughout Canada. Also, the decision shaped legal precedent concerning provincial and federal government relationships.

During the 10th Anniversary celebrations at Edmonton City Hall, the landmark decision was described as “Alberta’s Stonewall,” referencing the riots that sparked the gay liberation movement in New York in 1969.

Former Edmonton City Councillor, Michael Phair, who had been involved with the Delwin Vriend Defense Fund from the very beginning recalled: “I remember the immediate rally and goodwill with the verdict. People were very celebratory, but over the next few days, things began to darken substantially with the backlash. I and many others were caught in the maelstrom that occurred for about a week after the decision. Because I was an out public figure, there had been some death threats, and extra security had to be called in. It was not until Klein finally accepted the decision and said that he wouldn’t use the notwithstanding clause that things settled down.”

In 2013, Delwin Vriend travelled to Calgary and was honoured with the inaugural Chinook Fund Hero Award which is given annually by the Calgary Chinook Fund in thanks and recognition for outstanding contributions to the LGBTQ community and our history.

{KA}