Twenty years after officers raided Goliath’s Bathhouse, the Calgary Police Service is extending an olive branch to some of those arrested, again acknowledging the “pain and trauma” the event caused the local LGBTQ2S+ community.
Goliath’s, Calgary’s only gay bathhouse, was the subject of a police investigation that culminated in a raid on December 12, 2002, in which 18 men were arrested on lewd house charges. Staff, patrons and owners of the establishment are caught in the dragnet of the eight-month-long undercover sting.
Many of the patrons pleaded for alternative punishments to withdraw their charges – most consisting of community service or educational programs – while prosecutors dropped charges against the owners in 2005.
Now some of the men affected will be able to have their fingerprints and photographs – still on file with CPS – removed from the force’s database, police said on Monday.
“We know that the events of that night 20 years ago, although legal, took a heavy toll on those directly involved, as well as indirectly on the wider LGBTQ2S+ community, leading to feelings of distrust, disapproval and a fear of the police that for some , continues and continues to this day,” Chief Mark Neufeld said Monday at CPS headquarters in a public acknowledgment of the incident’s damage to the community.
Mark Randall, a member of the police advisory committee on gender and sexual diversity – who was an employee of the bathhouse until about two weeks before the 2002 raid – described Goliath’s as a “safe place” for the gay community.
“It was a place where many community (members) came out; it’s where people discovered their sexuality – the first time they maybe connected with other like-minded men,” he said, calling it a “little gay Cheers . . . where everyone knew your name.”
“The majority of those people who came there couldn’t go to their own families because they were judged, tortured and attacked for who they were – they couldn’t tell their families who they were.”
The raid “destroyed” the safety that Goliath offered, Randall said. He said the police response “undoubtedly” went beyond what was necessary based on the premise of the investigation, and strained the LGBTQ2S+ community’s relationship with the police, while also causing internal divisions among ‘ a gay community that fought for same-sex marriage at the time. .
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“Can we trust CPS in an emergency, especially if it was homophobic in nature?” he said. “Twenty years later threads of that sentiment remain entrenched. Trust has been broken and it is an extremely difficult relationship to restore.”
But the relationship moved forward. Randall noted that Const. Dyana McElroy raised the issue of the 20-year anniversary of the raid and asked “is there a plan to do anything?”
“We were worried about opening old wounds. What was the point?” Randall said. “What followed is nothing short of astonishing in my view. . . Today is just another step towards building a relationship of trust and respect by acknowledging the past, learning from the past and working to build an inclusive, respectful and safe community for all Calgarians. “
The acknowledgment and offer to expunge records follows the service’s 2018 formal apology for the raid. Neufeld said this is another step in the service’s journey toward reconciliation with the LGBTQ2S+ community, but “more work needs to be done.”
“Our relationship with gender and sexually diverse Calgarians has changed since 2002,” he said. “The CPS is absolutely committed to encouraging and protecting safe spaces, including those for LGBTQ2S+ Calgarians, and to protecting all businesses and all citizens from hate-induced crime.”