40 years later: How a shoeshine boy’s murder prompted change on Toronto’s Yonge Street
It’s been 40 years since the murder of 12-year-old Emanuel Jaques, a shoeshine boy who was found dead on Yonge Street at a time when it was recognized as Toronto’s sex district.
Jaques’ family recently immigrated to Canada from Portugal three years earlier in search of new opportunities.
“Like many immigrant families, the whole family had to work to support the livelihood of the family,” Tom Hooper, a historian who specializes in LGBTQ issues, told Global News. “Emanuel Jaques was no different.”
On July 28, 1977, Jaques was shining shoes at Yonge and Dundas streets when he was approached by a man offering money in exchange for his help moving.
“Saul Betesh approached Emmanuel Jaques with an offer of $35 to help him move some equipment,” Hooper said, adding that Jaques was instead lured to a body rub parlour on Yonge Street where he was then sexually assaulted and murdered.
“The details of his murder are quite gruesome,” Hooper said. “It was shocking and horrifying. The whole city – I mean this is known as ‘Toronto the Good’ – and when they found his body and they heard of this story, it sent a shock wave through the whole city.”
Betesh, Robert Kribs and Joseph Woods were convicted in Jaques’ death.
The 12-year-old’s murder prompted outcry from the city, including demands for Yonge Street be cleaned up.
“The biggest thing that happened was a protest that happened on Aug. 8, where members of the Portuguese community came out and called for things like bringing back the death penalty and they called for the eradication of homosexuality,” Hooper said.
Hooper said the death of Jaques also contributed to the bathhouse raids that took place in 1981.
“The murder of Emanuel Jaques put this idea into people’s minds that homosexuality was somehow associated with pedophilia … This sort of association that homosexuals were dangerous, perverted and somehow a threat to children,” Hooper said.
“[Morality officers] started moving into the periphery … One of the laws they used to clean up Yonge Street was called the bawdy house law, this anti prostitution law and it’s this law they used to raid the gay bath houses.”
Forty years later, Yonge Street is covered with bright lights and billboards, a far cry from its former nickname — the Sin Strip.
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