Toronto Area Strip Club Raids and Legal Issues
Some local police and Courts are again raising what we thought was an issue long settled by the Canadian Supreme Court. However in January, 2002 police are starting to watch some clubs and warn customers.
The following is from the Toronto Star
Jan. 18, 2002
Lap-dancing law given new life in court
Judges overturn rulings favouring GTA strip clubs
Tracey Tyler LEGAL AFFAIRS REPORTER
What constitutes "prostitution" and "indecency"?
The answers can be unpredictable, but that doesn't mean a law that's used to stop lap dancing is so vague it's unconstitutional, Ontario's highest court ruled yesterday.
In a decision that can only be seen as bad news for the owners of some strip clubs, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled 3-0 to overturn two lower court rulings that stayed charges of keeping a common bawdy house against the operators of Toronto's Brass Rail Tavern, as well as an "adult entertainment parlour" by the name of Fantasia in Richmond Hill and another called Bunnies in Markham.
Two judges in earlier cases before the Ontario Court of Justice had concluded the offence fails to meet constitutional standards because the definition of keeping a common bawdy house - that it be a place used for prostitution or "acts of indecency" - is too vague and ill-defined.
This has led to considerable discrepancies in court rulings across the country, they said. The crown appealed the decisions and asked that the charges against the club owners be allowed to go to trial.
In granting the appeal yesterday, Mr. Justice Robert Sharpe said that while there is "considerable force" to the lower courts' rulings, it's really a straightforward case of an issue that's already been decided by the Supreme Court of Canada.
"There is binding authority holding that the offence of keeping a common bawdy house, as well as the elements of that offence - `acts of indecency' and `prostitution' - are not unconstitutionally vague," he said, writing for the court.
As a result, it's "not open to us at this stage" to conclude that the law is made unconstitutional because of differences of opinion on what standards of decency the community is willing to tolerate, Sharpe wrote.
Calvin Barry, the prosecutor in the Brass Rail case, said many bar owners have been under a misconception since the lower court rulings were handed down in 2000 and 2001 that "lap dancing was lawful again."
But Barry says he has been instructing police in Toronto to carry on "business as usual." "Basically, it's a resource issue," he said. "If it's a very `in your face' case, I've advised them to go ahead and lay charges."
The appeal court has clarified the status of the law in Ontario at a time of increasingly conflicting judicial opinions on whether the law itself stands up in court. Since the two lower court rulings, at least one other judge in the same court concluded that the law was constitutional, Barry noted.
In staying the charges, the lower court judges believed the Supreme Court issued rulings in two separate cases that laid out different standards for whether the sexual touching of dancers inside partially enclosed booths in Quebec taverns was unacceptably degrading to women and therefore constituted indecency.
Interesting comments from Bud Plug on Terb.ca regarding the article:
The quotes that are reproduced seem to say that a bylaw banning lap dancing is not per se illegal, but such a finding does not mean that the application of the law to particular facts would not violate the Charter. I think the result of the case is that police can attempt to enforce local lap dance bylaws, but they can only enforce it in circumstances where the lap dancing constitutes actual prostitution (whatever that means) or indecency (whatever that means). So the exact meaning of the law will still be unsettled. There are decisions out there that say that touching of breasts is not indecent. It's still unclear how much farther things can go before you cross the line.
More interesting to me is the gap between the legal rulings and enforcement. Clearly, the upper courts (judges appointed by the Federal government, by the way) feel compelled to voice disapproval, on behalf of "the public", of high contact lap dancing. On the other hand, municipalities and police forces (accountable to local taxpayers) seem reluctant to agressively pursue charges in this area. I agree with the prosecutor who suggested that charges will only be pursued in "in your face" situations. Local authorities, in other words, seem to understand that they have far more significant problems to attend to, if lapdancing is even a problem at all.
On another note, if anyone thought that Canadian society was no longer strongly influenced by religion, these court decisions should disabuse you of that notion. Obviously, no intelligent judge is seriously concerned that lap dancing is any of:
1) a public health concern (if that were the case, I guess they'd start warning us that you can get VD from toilet seats again),
2) a venue for taking economic advantage of women (if that was true, strippers wouldn't be raking in so much cash),
3) a significant contributor to prostitution (escorts [Dave notes outcall sexwork totalaly legal in Canada}are widely available, strip clubs don't significantly contribute to the FS market), or
4) a significant component of organized crime in Canada (if they were really worried about organized crime, they wouldn't allow biker conventions and they'd be much more interested in legalizing prostitution).
In my view, these decisions are not so much about achieving anything as they are about mouthing that religious staple "Sexual contact of any kind outside of marriage is bad". I guess whoever says it loudest and most often must be the best person (right!).
Personally, I wish judges would wrestle over the conflict between their purported religious beliefs and their actual conduct and desires in private, like the rest of us do, rather than purport to hold out that "they have everything in check, and so should you, because that's the law!" Frankly, it's typical self-denial bullshit that the major religions (all of them) have been peddling for centuries.
The lap dances at Toronto Strip clubs seem to be the more liberal than in many other Canadian cities. Wherever I have gone, in Canada, Thailand, Philippines or Mexico, I have researched the legal situation and seek to understand and respect local laws and customs.
There is a long history of police raids in Toronto both before and after the Canadian Supreme Court decision that lap dancing itself is legal as long as there is no overt sex. Nude laps with body caressing, breast massage etc seems fine in some cities, Toronto itself it seems is more restrictive on breast touching. Any penetrative sex, in a strip club, is clearly illegal and violates both local bylaws and the Canadian Criminal Code.
However, it seems Toronto guys want sex in strip clubs even though there are so many legal options (outcall escorts) that don't put a club at risk (and incidentally everyone in it, regardless if the have knowledge or are participating) for a bawdy house violation if sex is occurring.
A Metro Toronto bylaw enacted in 1995 and still in place is quite clear about what may not take place in any of the city's 42 licensed adult entertainment parlours. "No attendant shall, while providing services as an attendant (in an adult entertainment parlour), touch or have physical contact with any other person in any manner whatsoever involving any part of the person's body," the bylaw says.
In 1998 massive raids were conducted with hundreds of dancers and customers arrested. Some were having sex in cubicles. Some were arrested for simply being in a bawdy house since once sex was found to be occurring, it was considered an illegal bawdy house. Every "inmate" of a bawdy house even if they have no knowledge or participation can be arrested. This is an interesting and unjust in my view, aspect of Canadian law.
Then comes the late 1999 Canadian Supreme Court decision. Touching dancers by customers including sexually is legally supported as long as it does not involve "masturbation, fellatio, penetration or sodomy." See my extensive report on the Supreme Count Decision in my Montreal report.
But this does not invalidate a licensing bylaw, it just can not be subject to bawdy house violations. But a club still could lose its license. It seems that most of the Western area clubs outside Toronto itself are following this liberal Supreme Court Decision. This is where I had such wonderful nude lap dance intimacy experiences. However Toronto seems to be enforcing no breast touching making enforcing a bit more conservatively its licensing bylaw.
Raids in 2000 when overt sex continues at Strip Clubs- The ones I
enjoyed the most but not trying to get any illegal sex! And I
was never offered sex. My visits were four months after the
74 charged after strip club raids UPDATE: ALL CHARGES DISMISSED AS OF 4/01 ACCORDING TO VARIOUS SOURCES! It is very hard to prove bawdy house charges, especially in a lap dance club since only overt sex is subject to bawdy law. Of course escort outcall sexwork is totally legal in Canada as in most of the world, except the U.S.
Toronto Star excerpts
More than 50 dancers in three Mississauga strip clubs, which police allege were operating as bawdy houses, are facing charges following simultaneous raids by more than 300 officers.
Thursday night's raid was the largest one-night blitz so far by officers working with the year-old Project Almonzo - a joint-forces operation targeting prostitution in strip clubs throughout Greater Toronto.
Altogether, 74 people were charged with more than 90 criminal code offences following the 10 p.m. raids at two Brampton strip clubs - the Million Dollar Saloon on Torbram Rd. and the Cannonball Tavern on Advance Blvd. - and at the Cabaret-Locomotion Tavern on Eglinton Ave. E. in Mississauga.
Investigators allege prostitution offences were being solicited by the dancers inside the clubs and committed by dancers inside private areas within the establishments. ''Our investigation revealed that sexual acts from masturbation to intercourse were being performed inside these clubs,'' said Inspector John Nielsen of Peel Region Police's morality unit during Friday's news conference. ''Our officers were offered masturbation for as little as $40 to intercourse for $140. Six of the dancers were found to be illegally in the country and are now being dealt with by immigration officials, Nielsen said. ''These women were all from Hungary,'' Nielsen said.
The majority of the charges laid were for keeping a common bawdy house, permitting a common bawdy house, being inmates of common bawdy houses and found-ins at common bawdy houses. The 55 dancers arrested were charged with being inmates of a common bawdy house. Doormen and managers of the clubs were charged with keeping or permitting common bawdy house. ''Anybody who we established was exercising some authority or control over the dancers were charged with either keep or permit a common bawdy house,'' Nielsen said. Another 10 customers, who were having lap dances performed for them in semi-private areas, were charged as found-ins, Nielsen said. Police also charged four people with drug offences for possession and trafficking of marijuana and cocaine. Police say all three clubs are owned by John Sit, 49, of Woodbridge. He wasn't in the clubs when they were raided and no charges have been laid against him at this time.
More than 25 clubs have been raided by Project Almonzo officers since the task force was formed last June. More than 700 charges have also been laid against dancers, staff and patrons.
A person commented in a discussion group: I am friends with a couple dancers who are nice, normal people - not like some of the mega-bitch sluts decribed on this board. They were busted (the whole club was) and charged and they were terrified, absolutely terrified for weeks. It's not just a light fine - it's cops with automatic rifles and dogs, its expensive lawyers, court dates, humiliation, and for some deportation.
charges brought against Gay club
Toronto Sun January 20, 2000: Gay club owner slapped with fine Kept bawdy house, allowed stage sex The manager of Toronto's best-known gay strip club that staged Sperm Attack Mondays was sentenced yesterday to 100 hours of community service and ordered to donate $1,000 to an AIDS charity.
Ontario Court of Justice Judge Bruce Young also placed Keneth McKeigan on one year's probation and granted him a conditional discharge after he was found guilty last month of keeping a common bawdy house and allowing an indecent performance at Remingtons.
The show -- which ran between Nov. 20, 1995 and Feb. 19, 1996 -- featured male dancers masturbating and ejaculating on stage while patrons reportedly arrived wearing raincoats.
The GOOD News About these Raids
Since legal sex is so easily available, often at less than what one would spent at a strip club for an illegal sex act, the recent raids probably make it less likely that clubs will allow or that dancers will offer the clearly illegal services. That might make the clubs safer for us that enjoy naked cuddling, caressing a beautiful body and the medically beneficial breast massage I enjoy giving. None of these violate "bawdy" per the recent Canadian Supreme Court decision.
UPDATE: ALL CHARGES DISMISSED AS OF 4/01 ACCORDING TO VARIOUS SOURCES!
The excerpts quoted above, with full credit, is being shared under the Fair Use provision of the U.S. and Canadian Copyright laws and International treaties for educational purposes with no financial gain.
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