One of the biggest issues facing Pride in Toronto right now appears to be an emerging battle over nudists at the Parade. Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford and his brother have rejected attending this year’s festival on the grounds that there will be “buck-naked men running down the street” presumably they would prefer to spend their time arguing with Kevin Spacey. The Festival which for the first time will be hosting ‘World Pride’ is estimated to bring in up to 3 million people.
The real catalyst for the discussion appears to have been the decision by Sam Sotiropoulos a school trustee with the Toronto District School Board to try and get the Toronto Police Service to enforce the public nudity laws. Former Xtra! reporter Andrea Houston in her piece in the Toronto Life website brought up the possible exemption to nudists at Pride as a result of a 2000 Ontario Court of Justice decision, which will be discussed below.
The key defense taken by both Houston and Emma Teitel (Macleans) is that it is a sign of respect for our history. It harkens back to the Toronto bath house raids, over 30 years ago when over 150 officers of the Toronto Police Service raided the bath houses in Toronto, they arrested over 300 men after forcing them into the street either naked or only in a towel. According to DailyXtra! based in Toronto this was the watershed for the liberation movement in Canada. The reason this is relevant is because the people insisting on nudity are the GLBT elders in Toronto, particularly Totally Naked Toronto Men Enjoying Nudity lead by the 62 year old Bert Bik. According to the 37 page ruling by Justice Jon-Jo A Douglas it appears to protect nudity where there is an expectation of it being there, TNTMen in a previous Xtra! article claimed that Pride is an environment where you expect nudity.
The apparent reasoning is that because they were not allowed to be naked in private, they are naked in public as an act of civil disobedience. It’s a way of paying homage to the roots which helped bring about the Gay Pride movement in Canada. The younger generations who are more willing to abide by the nudity laws are being shamed for denying their history and assimilating into a homo-normative stance on nudity.
The situation in Ottawa is very different; there were complaints last year of nudity at the Pride festival during the Parade. Capital Pride has not released any statement regarding this. But Ottawa is very different from Toronto. In Ottawa there is a much bigger focus on families, and youth. The idea that people expect nudity as a result of the Bathhouse raids is a very Toronto-centric approach to GLBT history. There have been other raids, such as the Sauna raids in Montreal but there is a lot more to our history than men in towels; for example, what about the murder of Joe Rose in Montreal 25 years ago, or the murder of Alain Brosseau in Ottawa in 1989. In Ottawa the trigger moment was the feeling that the police were turning a blind eye to crimes against GLBT people. The murder of Alain Brosseau lead to the creation of the Ottawa Police Hate Crimes unit (the first in Canada) and in 1991 it lead to the creation of the Ottawa Police GLBT Liaison Committee, also the first of its kind.
So what can we expect at Capital Pride? Nudists or the Police?
Last year the Ottawa Chief of Police along with other Emergency Service personnel attended the Parade, to demonstrate their support of the GLBT community. Capital Pride also appears to have shifted it’s focus towards Human Rights with it’s social media highlighting a lot more human rights issues. Ottawa is far more political than Toronto, and is often at the heart of major political changes. What the Velvet Studio expects is to see the nudists politely asked to cover up as Pride focuses on continuing to fight against violence against GLBT persons not just in Canada, but across the globe.