Seven police officers are suing City Councillor Kyle Rae over comments the gay politician made about a raid on the Pussy Palace women’s bathhouse.
“It’s an outrage that members of council are not free to criticize the police in defence of their community – yet the police union calls city councillors scumbags,” says Rae.
His lawyer was served with the legal document while Rae was on holiday in early November.
“It’s so offensive.”
Toronto Police Association head Craig Bromell called politicians “scumbags” in a television documentary. Bromell is not listed as one of the parties in the defamation lawsuit, which seeks at least $500,000 in general, aggravated, special and punitive damages.
The seven complainants in the action are all identified as police officers. They are:
David Wilson of Pickering
Rich Petrie of Aurora
Peter Christie of Durham Region
Myron Demqiw of Toronto
Chris LaFrance of Burlington
Janet Hall of Ajax
Adrian Greenaway of Toronto.
Lawyer Michael Freeman, who earlier admitted to representing five police officers involved in the raid on the Pussy Palace, would not discuss the lawsuit. “It’s our policy that when a matter is in litigation, we don’t comment to the media.”
Here’s what police say happened. Two anonymous telephone calls of complaint were received by the authorities from women complaining of “drug use, physical violence and inappropriate sexual activities” at a past Pussy Palace. (Four have been held in two years.)
Two police women went in undercover to the Club Toronto bathhouse, then left. Five male plainclothes officers then went inside in the wee hours of Sep 15, and spent more than an hour and a half.
Pussy Palace organizers were incensed, called the visit itself “harassment” and demanded during a September Toronto Police Services Board meeting that an internal report on the raid be made public.
Only after that did police lay six charges under the provincial Liquor Licence Act against two of the organizers – at the beginning of the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, when even their lawyer was out of town.
Kyle Rae called the officers involved “rogue cops” and accused them of going on a panty raid.
Says Rae: “I have – what’s the word? – qualified privilege. A degree of privilege that I have as an elected official.”
The city will pay his legal bills. Freeman has refused to say who was paying his bills.
The police union’s Craig Bromell has never responded to an Xtra request for an interview, first filed more than one month ago.
Liberal MPP George Smitherman, meanwhile, has another take on the police raid on the Pussy Palace.
“I take Kyle Rae’s rogue cop premise and add another layer onto it. I believe that [police chief] Julian Fantino empowers rogue cops by giving them a sense that he will protect them.”
Smitherman, the out gay provincial politician in the riding that includes the gay ghetto, says he’s not suggesting the cops contacted the chief of police directly. “My view is that Fantino’s selection sent a message to the guys – underscore guys.
“I think that on many occasions Julian Fantino’s activism comes very close to crossing the line between his responsibility as an officer and the responsibility given to other people in public life, like politics. He’s a bit of a crusader – we saw that with the rave scene, where he said he was going to see the prime minister about this.”
An inquest into the rave scene resulted in politicians rescinding their ban on raves on city property, first encouraged by Fantino who created what some critics called a “moral panic” about children and drugs.