Monday, June 06, 2016

bonus features: racism and homophobia in the pages of a police magazine

This post offers supplementary material for an article I recently wrote for Torontoist, which you should read before diving into this post.

star 1973-01-10 the homosexual hoax
Toronto Star, January 10, 1973. Click on image for larger version.
The article that Tom Moclair studied carefully to write his News & Views piece "The Homosexual Fad" six years later. Seeing a piece such as this in the Star at the time is not a great shocker, as the paper's editorials tended not to look too kindly on the homosexual community.

star 1973-02-22 davis transportation cartoon
Toronto Star, February 22, 1973. Click on image for larger version.
Still, the paper gave room for a rebuttal.

star 1979-01-06 protests to city hall over sewell bp speech
Toronto Star, January 6, 1979. Click on image for larger version.
The full speech Mayor John Sewell gave at The Body Politic rally on January 3, 1979. By the end of the business day on January 5, over 1,000 calls regarding Sewell's appearance flooded the City Hall switchboard. The mayor promptly turned down an invitation from evangelist Ken Campbell to attend a "prayer session" at Nathan Phillips Square a few days later. Campbell, who presented the invite on 100 Huntley Street, claimed the rally would be "pro-children," which some observers took as code for "anti-gay." On the same show, host David Mainse told viewers to call Sewell and tell him "there is a petition coming in response to what happened last night."

(I didn't encounter any further information about said petition.)

nv 1979-03 homosexual fad 1_032

nv 1979-03 homosexual fad 2_033
News & Views, March 1979. Compare Moclair's piece with Cappon's. Note recurrence of key catchy phrases. 
gm 1979-03-21 editorial on news and views
Globe and Mail, March 21, 1979.

gm 1979-03-21 beddoes small
Globe and Mail, March 21, 1979.
The Globe and Mail's Dick Beddoes wrote several columns skewering Moclair and Peglar, as well as the weak actions of the police. This was the first of them.

gm 1979-03-24 john herbert letter
Globe and Mail, March 24, 1979.
Among the bags of letters printed in the daily papers was this one from playwright John Herbert comparing the attitude of cops elsewhere.

sun 1979-03-28 hoy on news and views
Toronto Sun, March 28, 1979. Click on image for larger version.
Apart from a couple of short news items, it took a week from the first reports about the News & Views articles for the Sun to weigh in editorially. The response from Queen's Park columnist Claire Hoy, who frequently laid bare his dislike of homosexuals, was not surprising. By the time Sewell and the force were verbally attacking each other in the wake of the Albert Johnson shooting that summer, Hoy declared him "our worst mayor."

Where Sewell actually stands in our pantheon of mayors is a tricky matter, and one that still provokes intense debate. It's a matter I'll explore more in a column I have planned later this year. One of the best pieces of analysis I came across during recent research was written by longtime City Hall observer David Lewis Stein for the Star in 2009:

Besides, winning isn't everything. Sometimes losers gain a brighter place in history than politicians who just plug along, ducking tough choices.

I am at Innis College at the University of Toronto these days teaching a course on Toronto as a global city. I talk to students about mayors from Crombie to Miller. When I read through journals submitted by students, an overwhelming number say John Sewell was a great mayor. Typical comments "Sewell got things done" and "Sewell wasn't afraid to speak out."

But Sewell was a loser. He lasted only one term as mayor. He succeeded Crombie in 1978 when Crombie moved up to federal politics; in 1980 he was defeated by Arthur Eggleton.

Sewell was the first mayor to openly criticize the Toronto police force. Old-guard cops were outraged. They had grown comfortable hearing politicians say, "Our cops are tops."

When Sewell endorsed George Hislop, the first openly gay man to run for city council, the police raided bath houses where homosexuals hung out. The timing seemed more than coincidental. Hislop was said to be part owner of a bath house.

Bigots came out of the woodwork. They heckled Sewell so viciously at public meetings the mayor could scarcely be heard above the din. Sewell went down to defeat.

But his brave stand on behalf of Hislop helped break down the prejudice against gay people in public life. We have made such progress since then that today chiefs of police and mayors routinely attend Gay Pride events. And students of urban affairs look back and say Sewell was a great mayor.


Toronto Sun, March 29, 1979.
The Sun's editorial on the whole matter seems as much an opportunity to take shots at one of the paper's least favourite lawyers as to slip in a comment that Moclair's piece possessed "a certain crude validity."

Front page, Toronto Sun, April 4, 1979.
As Ken Peglar's past print indiscretions came to light, the Sun ran this cover photo of the police chief and provincial attorney-general donating blood. It's hard not to be cynical about the timing of running this shot.

Here's more of Peglar's thoughts from December 1978 on the influx of Italians around Dufferin and Lawrence. The development he's hung up on is the Colombus Centre. Curious: did anyone outside of Quebec ever really use the term "Anglos?"

There's a church, a convent, two schools, an old folks home and several other buildings. Pretty soon there's a good chance there will be a community centre. At least two giant signs say "the site of an Italian Candian Centre." Notice the Italian Canadian; not Canadian Italian. People come from all over Metro to attend these places and when they're going good, us Anglos can't get on a bus or walk on the sidewalk.

The same column also included this charming observation about Jewish drivers nearby:

And, if you want a laugh, drive over to Glencairn and Bathurst and see the Jews, their Oldsmobiles. It's better than a Frank Sinatra special. Nobody is going more than 5 or 6 miles an hour, or it would be tragic. The only place a normal driver is safe is beside them. They haven't figured out how to drive sideways.

Globe and Mail, April 5, 1979.
Beddoes uncovered more lovely emissions from Peglar's brain over the previous year. What this material actually had to do with pensioners is a good question, unless it was an attempt to recreate a shooting-the-shit-over-a-couple-of-beers session.

News & Views, August 1979.
A few months after Peglar stopped writing the pensioners column, News & Views sports columnist Ed Pearson offered this tribute.

nv 1979-05 from the padre's pen038
News & Views, May 1979.
Call this the "damage control" column, where the police association's priests reminded the readership of the good deeds performed over the years.

Toronto Sun, September 13, 1979.
In the period between the shooting of Albert Johnson and the release of Cardinal Carter's report, the Sun printed this "encouragingly sensible" letter. My suspension of disbelief was tested while reading this, from the pen name "C. White" (c'mon, really?) to the "go back to your homeland" attitude presented.

News & Views, November 1979.
Running across this notice was less surprising. Welcome to a sneak preview of the 1980 municipal election campaign. 

Additional material from the April 5, 1979 edition of the Globe and Mail; and the April 6, 1979 and September 15, 2009 editions of the Toronto Star.

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