Skip to main content

City councillor Kyle Rae should not have used colourful language to criticize police officers who raided a lesbian bathhouse, a court has decided.

Mr. Rae was found guilty of defamation yesterday for comments he made after male officers inspected a downtown club on Sept. 15, 2000, the only night when its clientele included hundreds of half-naked women.

The gay councillor called the officers "cowboys," "goons," "renegades" and "rogue cops."

Madam Justice Jean MacFarland of the Superior Court ordered Mr. Rae to pay the officers $170,000 plus court costs. Taxpayers will suffer the damages, however, because a city insurance policy covers councillors' costs from defamation suits up to $2-million.

Mr. Rae told reporters that he's sorry for the comments and their cost to taxpayers.

"As an elected representative, I am responsible to the taxpayers, and that [penalty]is a concern," Mr. Rae said.

"But we've all learned," Mr. Rae added. "Police should not be talked of in that manner. They felt strongly that I crossed the line. And so all of us in elected office will have to learn from that. . . . "I've made a mistake."

Michael Freeman, the lawyer representing seven police officers who launched the suit, said the decision doesn't restrict politicians' freedom of speech.

"It doesn't mean that Councillor Rae or anyone else can't voice their opinion," Mr. Freeman said. "They certainly can.

"But what it does mean is, if you're going to voice your opinion, have the privilege to voice your opinion, you have to do so in a responsible manner," the lawyer said.

Mr. Rae's lawyer, John Holding, had argued that his client was merely trying to draw attention to the female participants' complaints about the police action.

The women were upset, Mr. Holding said, because about 250 of them were topless when five male officers entered Club Toronto. A club that caters to gay males, the Mutual Street facility was playing host to the lesbian Pussy Palace event that night.

Mr. Rae had said it wasn't necessary for the two female officers to call in their male colleagues because the premises had already been inspected.

The raid resulted in six charges of liquor-law infractions. An Ontario Court judge ruled that the search was illegal and dismissed the charges.

All seven officers joined the lawsuit: Detectives Dave Wilson and Myron Demkiw and Detective Constables Richard Petrie, Peter Christie, Janet Hall, Adrian Greenaway and Chris Lafrance.

During the proceedings, Det. Wilson testified that his superiors had attempted to discourage him from pursuing the bathhouse investigations, but that he had refused to comply.

Mr. Rae, 48, has been a city councillor for four consecutive terms.