Toronto police laid nearly 90 charges against 72 people as part of an operation to crack down on lewd conduct and public sex acts in Marie Curtis Park in Etobicoke.
Charges stemming from “Project Marie” include one criminal charge and numerous bylaw infractions for trespass to property, accessing restricted areas, and engaging in a prohibited activity. The operation was launched amid community complaints in an effort to ensure the park remains a family-friendly space.
“When we started doing some extra patrols down there, my partner and I came across an individual standing on the beach that drew our attention,” Toronto police Const. Kevin Ward told CBC.
“He was engaged in some sexual activity. When we went over and investigated, we found out that he was a registered sex offender and was in breach of his conditions at that time. That very alarming arrest kind of spring-boarded this entire project in motion.”
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Police officers in plain clothes reported being solicited for sex by men, witnessing sex acts, and witnessing men solicit other men for sex.
Despite the fact 95 per cent of the charges have been laid against men, a Toronto police spokesperson insists that “Project Marie” was not an anti-gay initiative on the part of the force.
“I don’t think this has anything to do with the sexual orientation of those involved,” said spokesperson Meaghan Gray.
A group of Ontario lawyers is offering up free assistance for many of the individuals charged after identifying the police activity as “out of proportion to the complaints.”
“It’s curious to me that when it comes to gay men meeting in the park, we have an undercover sting operation and a very vicious crackdown,” lawyer Marcus McCann told CBC’s Metro Morning Monday. “These charges are about consenting adults, not children,” he said.
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