Calgary police offer to remove records of some charged in 2002 Goliath’s Bathhouse raid

Click to play video: '20 years after gay bathhouse raid, Calgary police offer reconciliation'
20 years after gay bathhouse raid, Calgary police offer reconciliation
WATCH: The Calgary Police Service is acknowledging the damaging impacts and the erosion of trust following a 2002 raid at a gay bathhouse. For many in the LGBTQ2S+ community, it is an historic and significant day. As Jill Croteau reports, the establishment is still open and thriving, a testament to how far it’s come – Dec 12, 2022

The Calgary Police Service is offering to expunge fingerprints and photographs of those who had their charges stayed or withdrawn 20 years after the Goliath’s Bathhouse raid.

CPS officers raided Goliath’s Bathhouse downtown on Dec. 12, 2002, and charged dozens of men for being patrons of a common bawdy house (brothel) under the Criminal Code of Canada. The owners of Goliath’s Bathhouse were also charged for keeping a common bawdy house under the Criminal Code, according to the Calgary Gay History Project.

Bathhouses are considered safe havens for LGBTQ2S+ people because they allow people, especially men who have sex with men, who may not be out to meet others and explore their sexuality. It often comes with a membership fee and is locked to maintain a degree of privacy.

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The Goliath’s Bathhouse raid further cemented distrust towards police in the LGBTQ2S+ community at a time when the service was trying to mend relationships with queer and trans Calgarians. Bathhouse raids were common in the 1980s, so the 2002 raid shocked and traumatized many LGBTQ2S+ Calgarians.

“I was shocked. What did they raid this place for? It was surreal,” Goliath’s Bathhouse owner Andrew Brassard told Global News.

“So much had evolved and this was a massive step backward. They damaged the community and inflicted so much trauma on the community. I couldn’t figure out what the agenda was.”

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In a news release on Monday morning, CPS Chief Mark Neufeld said the service acknowledges the trauma the bathhouse raid caused. Neufeld also said the CPS is working towards reconciliation with Calgary’s LGBTQ2S+ community but said the service “stands by the investigation.”

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“We continue to acknowledge that our past actions have not always shown gender and sexually diverse Calgarians the level of compassion and respect they deserve,” Neufeld told reporters on Monday.

“We know the events of that night 20 years ago, though lawful, landed heavily on those directly involved as well as indirectly on the LGBTQ2S+ community at large, resulting in feelings of distrust and fear of the police. For some, it continues and persists to this day.”

Neufeld’s acknowledgment comes after former chief Roger Chaffin publicly apologized for the raid in 2018. The apology had an immense impact on Calgary’s LGBTQ2S+ community, but many say a lot of damage was done.

Mark Randall, a member of the CPS gender and sexual diversity advisory board, said the significant impacts of the Goliath’s Bathhouse raid cannot be forgotten.

“The raid directly impacted innocent men, business owners and staff through charges and media, who outed them to full public scrutiny and to family members who had no idea about their sexuality or their orientation. That was devastating,” Randall said at a news conference on Monday.

“The raid left me and others wondering what gay business is next. Could we trust CPS in an emergency, especially if it was homophobic in nature?

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“Twenty years later, threads of that sentiment remain entrenched. Trust was broken, and that is an extremely hard relationship to repair.”

Brassard said while he believes the CPS is sincere in its intent to reconcile with the LGBTQ2S+ community, queer and trans Calgarians deserve safe spaces away from public scrutiny.

“(The raid) made people that were looking for safety feel unsafe coming here because of the police,” the bathhouse owner said.

“They could come to this business in uniform to see if everyone is safe and okay, and to show they are policing for safety, and not based on what they think is morally right or wrong.

“Just like the community, the powers that be tried to quash this business and tried everything they could to shut the doors. This business survived through that the business is a representation of the community and it’s resilient — it’s not going away.”

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