A night in jail

James Dubro spent his first night in Toronto in jail.

The just-retired chair of the Church-Wellesley Neighbourhood Police Advisory Committee got picked up in a bar. The drunk friend’s erratic driving caught the attention of the coppers.

“The police stopped us, they saw that we were gay and were quite abusive to us. They beat up my friend, were nasty to me, they stole my watch. They called us ‘faggot.’ This was common sort of behaviour back then,” Dubro said during a lively Feb 7 talk at the University Of Toronto’s Rainbow Triangle Alumni Association.

Despite getting off on the wrong foot in the 1970s, Dubro has managed to develop a friendly relationship with the police in the last few years.

“I think things have changed a lot since those days,” he said. “I never imagined that I’d be working with police.”

Dubro’s co-operative attitude has attracted attention from out City Councillor Kyle Rae, who praised Dubro in a recent letter.

“It is easy for people to criticize the police or this process,” Rae wrote, “but for effective results, it takes people like you to stand up and make a difference.”

Dubro argued that in his years on the advisory committee, he has seen real change. Even the recent raids at The Bijou are a vast improvement over 1980s-era bathhouse operations, says Dubro. More than 300 men were arrested and the cops had sledgehammers.

In the case of The Bijou, Dubro feels that the community was able to convince the 52 Division superintendent that policing consensual sex should not be a priority. Dubro believes that it was junior officers acting on encouragement from the union who conducted most of the later Bijou raids.

Besides, claimed Dubro, much of the blame lies elsewhere.

“Craig Anderson, the owner of Bijou, has to be an idiot not to realize that by having the whole place licensed, the whole place is left open to police inspection,” said Dubro.

He believes that the Spa On Maitland and Spa Excess have been ignored because they have only a small liquor-licensed area around their bars.

“The Bijou will be immune so long as it’s not licensed all over,” Dubro predicted. “No one is targeting the Bijou particularly.”

(The criminal charges laid against customers last summer, however, were sex, not liquor related.)

Dubro said there is still value in working with police.

He also blamed the gay media for polarizing public opinion and for failing to provide clear facts to their readers.

Yet in the case of newly-appointed police chief Julian Fantino, Dubro believes that the media scrutiny may create positive effects.

“It’s like Nixon in China, he’s been so targeted on this issue [relations with the gay community], that I think he’ll bend over backwards to look moderate on it,” said Dubro. “He’s very conscious of his image in the public.”


Still, Dubro isn’t ready to let down his guard.

“Do I trust him? Not much. You have to watch police carefully every step of the way.”

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