‘It’s about time’: members of LGBTQ community react to Toronto police apology for bathhouse raids

The night of Feb. 5, 1981 has been permanently etched into Ron Rosenes’ mind.

He was visiting the Roman Baths on Bay Street during the infamous bathhouse raids.

“I was in a committed relationship but had an understanding that gave each other permission to go to the bathhouses,” Rosenes said.

One hundred and fifty plainclothed and uniformed police officers raided four bathhouses after a six-month investigation dubbed “Operation Soap” — resulting in nearly 300 arrests.

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READ MORE: Toronto police to issue ‘long overdue’ apology for controversial 1981 bathhouse raids

“At that moment, I was in my room by myself actually in a towel taking a break and then all of a sudden there was a tremendous racket. Then there was knocking on the door, then the door got broken down and I got led away rather briskly – still in my towel – to the front area of the bathhouse,” he said.

“It was very very traumatizing. It was the first time I ever had an encounter with the police. It was a really scary time. I went home and I didn’t sleep that night and ended up court.”

Rosenes was one of the few individuals who were convicted and fined for being at the bathhouse that night.

“Compared to a lot of the other men who were out that night, I was open about my sexual identity … This was not the case for a lot of the men who were arrested that night,” he said.

WATCH ABOVE: Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders is to apologize Wednesday night to the city’s gay community for the controversial 1981 bathhouses raids. Erica Vella reports.

“There were many men who were in heterosexual relationships, not disclosed to their partners, not disclosed where they worked and for many of those men, they lost their relationships, they lost their jobs … Their lives were destroyed by all of this.”

Police Chief Mark Saunders will issue a formal apology on Wednesday during a Pride reception at police headquarters.

And while Rosenes was surprised to hear about the apology, he says it is long overdue.

“It’s about time,” he said.

“[The apology] doesn’t have the power to erase what are very traumatic events from peoples’ lives, but I do think it’s a start.”

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