Ottawa Sex Scandal or was it a White Slavery Ring
As was common in this country, homosexuals were subject to police arrest, merely by being in the company of other Homosexuals. During the dates of March 3 - 20, 1975, Ottawa police carried out a large coordinated crackdown on homosexuals. Eighteen people were arrested and later found their names in print or read on the National news even those that were not charged.
On March 3 Michel Gravel, twenty-one, was arrested for running two male nude modeling agencies that were used as a front for a prostitution service involving teenage boys. Seventeen other men, all but one customers of the agencies, were arrested over the next three weeks and charged with contributing to juvenile delinquency, gross indecency, or buggery. None of the prostitutes was charged. The media sensationalized the "Ottawa Sex Scandal," calling the agencies a "white slavery ring" and a "homosexual vice ring."One individual, Warren Zufelt, a homosexual that worked for the federal government committed suicide after his name appeared in the paper.
Zufelt, a 34-year old civil servant, threatened to commit suicide if his name were published. On March 18, 1975 his name was published. He jumped to his death from his 13-story apartment building.
The media sensationalized the "Ottawa Sex Scandal," calling the agencies a "white slavery ring" and a "homosexual vice ring." The names, ages, addresses, and occupations of those arrested were published or reported not only locally, but in newspapers across the country and on national radio.
Two days after the tragic death of Zufelt, GO (Gays of Ottawa) organized a march on the Ottawa Journal and Police Headquarters...
On March 20, GO organized marches against police headquarters and the offices of the Ottawa foumal to protest police persecution of gays and biased reporting in the media, and to urge passing of a uniform age of consent law for all sexual acts.You can read more of this account here.
This issue is important today as we are still fighting the government over the issue of age of consent. The Police went after these men and laid weightier charges against them than was common in prostitution cases involving hetrosexuals. Most commonly, police would charge people with being found-ins. Age of consent at the time was 19 for homosexual sex.
The police in this instance as was often the case treated homosexuality with distain and contempt. I will have more on this in another post in the coming days.
of note: According to a CBC document, in 1975 only 24% of Canadians approved of same sex relationships. The times were certainly dire even after the famed words of former Justice Minister, Pierre Trudeau, "the State has no business in the bedrooms of the nation."