THE BODY POLITIC:|
No. 19, July/August 1975
Witch hunt extends to courtThe Ottawa witch hunt appears to be continuing. Police surveillance and harassment of gays in local parks is on the increase. In one recent incident at Nepean Point, Ottawa's most popular 'gay' park a member of Gays of Ottawa happened upon a scene where two officers were in the process of arresting four men on charges of gross indecency. One of the men appeared to be only an innocent bystander.
The GO member, Yvon Thivierge, protested this injustice, and was punched in the face and charged with obstructing a police officer. He in turn is laying charges of assault.
The two morality squad officers, Detectives Gervais and Methot, are the same policemen who have been involved in the recent arrest of 18 Ottawa area men on charges of gross indecency and buggery in connection with an alleged prostitution service involving minors. GO has subsequently been leafleting the park warning that the area is dangerous. A secret departmental investigation of the two officers is supposedly being carried out.
Meanwhile the preliminary hearings against several of the 16 alleged customers have begun and will not be completed before the fall. A publication ban has been placed on the proceedings.
Thus far one person has pleaded guilty to gross indecency and has been given an eight month suspended sentence. One man, Warren Zufelt, committed suicide after his name, address and place of employment had been published in the press. Three men have been committed to stand trial in County Court in the fall, and nine cases have yet to go through the preliminary stages.
Two cases were dismissed when the witnesses could not identify the men charged. In one case the media failed to report the dismissal, thus leaving the individual's name uncleared in the eyes of the public.
The main witnesses in the cases are the two alleged operators of the service and a sixteen year old boy, who will appear as the star witness in 12 of the cases. Cadieux has not been charged since he is cooperating with the police.
In at least two other cases the Crown prosecutor dropped standing charges and laid new ones when it became obvious that he had insufficient evidence for a conviction. His action followed an incredible court incident where morality officers escorted two youths through the courtroom to ensure that they made an accurate identification of a defendant.
The new charges allege that the defendant engaged in a sexual act with one of the two youths. Judge Jean-Pierre Beaulne commented: "I hope the morality department knows how many charges they wish to lay." The man's lawyer, Pat McCann, is considering laying a suit of malicious prosecution against the police.
Gays of Ottawa, along with The Body Politic and other groups, have demanded a full inquiry into police practices in the arrests. The Attorney General, John Clement, has replied with a refusal. In identical letters sent to this paper, GO and MLA Michael Cassidy, who has also called for an investigation, Clement stated: "I suppose the very detestable and depraved nature of the alleged operation to a large extent generated the attendant publicity. While police may have released information to the news media, it was the media's decision and responsibility as to what would be published. It has been standard practice for the police to release information concerning charges laid by them and to me it seems both illogical and incomprehensible to suggest that individuals charged with corrupting young boys should enjoy any special immunity from publication."
He continued, "So far as the conduct of the police is concerned, it is curious that they should be criticized for enforcing a law that prohibits the corruption of children. The investigation in question has been a matter of great concern and alarm not only to the police but also to the community. The corruption of children simply cannot be tolerated as any normal and sane individual must agree. The damage done to the young boys involved in this vicious operation well may be incalculable. Several of the youngsters have found it necessary to seek psychiatric help as a result of their involvement in the matter. The vigilant efforts of the police deserve commendation rather than censure. So far as I'm concerned there is no need for an inquiry and there will be no inquiry."
In a press release GO stated that this letter represented an "out and out disregard for either the facts of the case or for the lives of the individuals involved." the release also condemned the double standard of police officers in that clients in heterosexual prostitution cases are seldom charged even when young girls are involved. A recent Calgary case demonstrated this when young women were charged, but their customers were not.
GO has scheduled a meeting with Ottawa mayor Lorry Greenberg, head of the Ottawa police commission, to further press for an investigation. GO will also appear before the Ontario Press Council in Toronto in August to press their complaint against the Ottawa Citizen for sensationalistic coverage of the affair.
A special fund has been established to help pay legal fees for those defendants who are having financial troubles and for future cases in which gay people are discriminated against by the enforcement of unfair laws. Contributions can be made to the 'Warren Zufelt Memorial Defense Fund', c/o Gays of Ottawa, Box 2919, Station D, Ottawa, Ontario.
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