40 years later: How a shoeshine boy’s murder prompted change on Toronto’s Yonge Street

Click to play video: 'Death of 12-year-old shoeshine boy 40 years ago paved new path for Toronto’s Yonge Street'
Death of 12-year-old shoeshine boy 40 years ago paved new path for Toronto’s Yonge Street
WATCH ABOVE: Forty years ago, a community came together in outrage to demand action in the wake of a brutal murder. A young life was taken through unspeakable crimes and as Erica Vella reports, some believe it changed the city – Aug 8, 2017

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.”

READ MORE: Ontario police continue to hunt Yvonne Leroux’s killer 44 years later

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.

Story continues below advertisement

“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.”

Get the latest National news. Sent to your email, every day.

READ MORE: 32 years later, Ontario mother still searching for daughter’s killer

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.

READ MORE: Toronto police chief to apologize for 1981 bathhouse raids at Pride event

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.”
Story continues below advertisement

Forty years later, Yonge Street is covered with bright lights and billboards, a far cry from its former nickname — the Sin Strip.

Sponsored content