The ArQuives Digital Exhibitions

Operation Soap

Fuck You 52

On the night of February 5, 1981,  Toronto police raided four gay steam-baths using the code name "Operation Soap,”  the largest mass arrest in Canadian history since the War Measures Act in Quebec. 286 men were arrested and charged as 'found-ins' in raids on four gay steam baths. Hundreds of police participated in the raids, using sledgehammers and crow-bars to trash the premises. Nancy Nicol's interviews on the raids were originally included in her documentary 'Stand Together' (2002), part one in the From Criminality to Equality series. 


February 5th, 1981

The following is a collection of interviews conducted by Nancy Nicol on the subject of the police raids against bathhouses, which took place on February 5, 1981 in Toronto, Ontario.

Duchan McLarren [Duncan McLaren] on the Bathhouse Raids

Duchan McLarren [Duncan McLaren] was arrested at the Barracks bathhouse during the raid on the baths on Feb. 5th, 1981, and charged as a 'found-in'. A member of Gay Fathers at the time, Duncan gives a vivid and chilling account of the raid and how he was treated, discribing the overt homophobia by police.

Interview with Peter Bochove, co-owner of the Richmond Street Health Emporium on the 1981 raid in Toronto

Peter Bochove, a co-owner of the Richmond St. Health Emporium gives a first hand account of the raid of the Richmond Street Health Emporium in Toronto on Feb. 5th, 1981, the destructive behaviour by police.

Interview with Tim McCaskell on the Toronto Bath Raids

Tim McCaskell, an activist and writer with The Body Politic, covered the bath raids for the Body Politic on the night of Feb. 5, 1981. In this excerpt Tim talks about that experience and gives a broaded political anaylis of the period and the organizing efforts that developed following the bath raids, including the Right to Privacy; and goes on talk about earlier history in Western Europe and North America prior to Gay Liberation in the 1970s.

These are selected shorts from the Nancy Nicol collection. Other interviews onon the Bath Raids in Toronto in 1981 are available on site at the CLGA and include the following people:

Chris Bearchell, (Coalition for Gay Rights in Ontario: CGRO; the Body Politic and Right to Privacy Committee: RTPC)

Peter Bochove, (co-owner of the Richmond Street Health Emporium which was destroyed by police during the 1981 raid)

Harold B. Desmarais, (Gay Unity Windsor (GUW), Coalition for Gay Rights in Ontario (CGRO), Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, The Fruit Cocktails)

Andy Fabo, (artist, charged as a 'keeper" in 1978 Barracks Raid; Bob Gallagher, (Right to Privacy Committee (RTPC), The Body Politic (TBP)

Amy Gottlieb, (Lesbian Organization of Toronto (LOOT), Lesbians Against the Rights (LAR), Gays and Lesbians Against the Right Everywhere (GLARE); Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes, (went on a hunger strike to protest the bath raids)

Robert Norman Hatton, (photographer, documented the destruction of the Richmond Street Emporium by police during the 1981 raids on the baths; Gerald Hannon, (journalist and photographer for The Body Politic)

George Hislop, (charged as a 'keeper' in the 1978 Barracks raid; Gary Kinsman, (Right to Privacy Committee (RTPC), Gays and Lesbians Against the Right Everywhere (GLARE), and author of The Regulation of Desire, 1987)

Tim McCaskell, (The Body Politic; Right to Privacy Committee: RTPC)

Duncan McLaren, (Gay Fathers, charged as a 'found-in' bath raids, on February 5th, 1981); Elinor Mahoney, (photographer for The Body Politic: TBP)

Brian Mossop, (charged as a 'found-in' bath raids, on February 5th, 1981)

Deb Parent, (Toronto Rape Crisis Centre)

Ken Popert,(The Body Politic, Pink Triangle Press)

David Rayside, (Right to Privacy Committee (RTPC), Human Rights Amendment Campaign, author, Queer Inclusions, Continental Divisions, 2008)

Konnie Reich(Gay Alliance Toward Equality, Toronto: GATE), Coalition for Gay Rights in Ontario: CGRO, photographer)

Tom Warner (Coalition for Gay Rights in Ontario: CGRO, Right to Privacy Committee: RTPC, June 13 Committee, and author of Never Going Back A History of Queer Activism in Canada, 2002); John Wilson, (Coalition for Gay Rights in Ontario (CGRO), Right to Privacy Committee: RTPC).

Operation Soap