VIDEO: Hate Crimes and the Murder Spree of 1989

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is dis-proportionally victimized by hate crimes, bullying and assault, sometimes so consistently that the victims feel death is their only escape. While estimates of LGBT population in Canada range between 5-10%, 16% of all reported hate crimes are motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity, higher than any other group other than racial and religious minorities.

Two-thirds of all hate crimes against LGBT persons are violent, often brutally so, and almost 60% of all cases were by young men aged under 25 years. In 2009, a survey found that Canadian LGBT students are eight times more likely to be bullied or harassed than straight students, and over 70% report feeling unsafe in schools.

The queer community in Ottawa has been victim to many hate crimes over the years. Gay men, in particular, were targeted while cruising in well-known spots like Major's Hill Park, behind Parliament, near the Germany Embassy, the YMCA on Metcalfe, the Château Laurier and Union Station, among others.

These crimes came to a head in 1989, when there were at least 15 reported incidents of violence, and no doubt many more were unreported, as many men didn't want to out themselves or deal with a hostile police force. In that year alone, seven people were thrown off the cliffs in Major's Hill Park, with two dying from the fall. Others were robbed, assaulted or stabbed.

The night on August 21-22 was particularly shocking. A gang of youth assualted Alain Brosseau on his way home from work, dragged him onto the Alexandra Bridge and dangled him over the edge before dropping him into the river to his death. Their last words to him were "Nice shoes, faggot." Ironically, he is believed to have been straight, but just the presumption of him being gay was enough.

Later that night, these same gang of youth traveled to the Orleans home of Alain Fortin and Wilfred Gauthier whose address they had when one of them was mugged in the park some time earlier. They brutally attacked them men, slashing Gauthier's throat and stabbing Fortin in the eye. By feigning death, they managed to survive, but one of the men's body was stuffed into the trunk of a car.

Finally the police caught on (or could no longer deny) that the gay community was under attack, and slowly, the community educated the police on queer issues and demanded respect, protection, and equal treatment under the law. The Police Liaison Committee was formed as this new partnership was fostered.

Unfortunately, there have been other assaults and deaths that have rocked the community. In 2002, Chris Raynsford was brutally murdered in his own apartment by a man he met online. Michael Marcil, better known as Dixie Landers, fell down a flight of stairs after a brutal assault during bar fight.

Others have committed suicide due to hateful bullying or homo- and trans-phobia, such as Jamie Hubley in 2011 and Evie in 2017.

The following list is of:

  • known and reported LGBT victims of homophobic or transphobic murder, or those assumed to be LGBT in the National Capital Region.
  • known and reported LGBT victims of suicide in the National Capital Region.

Unfortunately, an attempt to list all victims of verbal and physical assault would prove near impossible considering the sheer number of reported cases, often as many as a hundred per year or more, with many more that go unreported.

We honour all known or unknown survivors, or those dead because of homophobic or transphobic abuse.

1975: Warren Zufelt
1980: Roger Rinfret
1987: Martin Mallon
1987: Gerald Theriault
1989: Peter Vainola
1989: John Richard Miller
1989: Alain Brosseau
1990: Garth Balderston
1993: Donald Hebert
1993: Benoit Villeneuve
1994: Gerald Cuerrier
1994: Mario Desrosiers
1995: Guy Robert
1996: Jean Chenier
2002: Christopher Raynsford
2003: Bill Goodwin
2011: Jamie Hubley
2014: Jon “Nizzi” Letke
2017: Evie

If you know more details about this topic, please email to share dates, facts, images or more.

In partnership with the Bank Street BIA and Capital Pride.


Hate Crimes and the Murder Spree of 1989: Part 1
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Hate Crimes and the Murder Spree of 1989: Part 2
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Hate Crimes and the Murder Spree of 1989: Part 3
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Hate Crimes and the Murder Spree of 1989: Part 4
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