Ottawa LGBT History: The Club Baths Raid
On May 22, 1976, Ottawa police raid the Club Baths at 1069 Wellington Street West and arrest 27 men. Twenty-two were charged as 'found-ins', two with 'gross indecency' and three as being 'keepers'. Although owner Peter Maloney doesn't recall the police damaging any of the property or if the patrons were subjected to police brutality or humiliation (such as not allowing them to dress before their arrest), they do seize financial papers and the membership list, containing over 3,000 names. The membership list was later returned, but presumedly they kept records of the names on the list.
This was the first bathhouse raid in Ottawa, but raids such as this were common in larger cities like Toronto and Montreal. Montreal queer establishments and bathhouses were particularly targeted in 1976 before the summer Olympics as part of a 'clean-up' campaign to make the city more tourist friendly. Because some sporting events were also taking place in near-by Ottawa, it was thought that this raid at Club Baths was part of the overall clean-up.
On May 24th, Gays of Ottawa (GO) holds a press conference to protest the raids. Largely, the press coverage was sympathetic. Perhaps learning from the 1975 'Vice Ring' case that resulted in the death of Warren Zufflet, the Ottawa Citizen decides not to publish the names of those arrested. GO then holds a protest, with approximately 50 attending, at the Ottawa Police station on May 28th.
Maloney pleaded not guilty, went to trial and was found guilty, then given a discharge conditional on a year's probation. The deal he struck was that if he came to Ottawa to be charged as a keeper of a common bawdy house and went to trial, that, at the end of the trial, the customers who were charged at the time of the raid would have their charges withdrawn. However, before the deal was struck, two of the men plead guilty to 'gross indecency' and two others to being 'found-ins at a bawdyhouse' but receive absolute discharges.
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