January 25, 2021
Globe and Mail
By Katie Rook

Gay bookshop gives up the fight

Repeated legal battles have cost business more than $1-million over 30 years

  After 30 years in and out of court and more than $1-million spent on legal fees, lost revenue and seized inventory, Toronto's Glad Day Bookshops Inc. is surrendering its role as champion of gay and lesbian rights in Canada.

The store's most recent battle, a four-year court case that challenged the latitude of the Ontario Film Review Board to censor films, has cost more than $100,000.

Despite winning an appeal that led to a proposal to replace the Theatres Act, employees at the small shop near Yonge and Wellesley Streets say they are exhausted and disappointed they can't continue to fight.

"Our goal in part is to provide the widest possible selection of lesbian and gay titles available. Various government individuals seem to have a big problem with that.

"They seem to feel that we do not have the right to express ourselves; that we do not have the right to choose what we can see, read or hear for ourselves," store manager Toshiya Kuwabara said.

Since Glad Day opened for business in 1970, on at least five occasions the store has been in court proceedings with Canada Customs, the police or the film review board arguing its right to import and sell gay and lesbian books and videos.

After a provincial government agent bought a gay adult film called Descent at Glad Day in August of 2000, the store and its owner, John Scythes, were convicted of distributing a film that had not been approved by the review board.

They appealed the conviction and won after Mr. Justice Russell Juriansz of the Ontario Court of Appeal found the Theatres Act inconsistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Mr. Kuwabara said the store continued its fights out of principle.

"What right does the government of Ontario have to decide for the lesbian and gay community what they can see or read for that matter?

"If you assume that each adult has some level of intelligence then you would assume they have the right and ability to decide for themselves. We're not here to force anything on anybody." he said.

In December of 2004, the Ontario government tabled a bill called the Film Classification Act, repealing the old Theatres Act.

Although Glad Day had successfully challenged the constitutionality of the film review board, they were unhappy with the new bill.

At the time, Frank Addario, the lawyer who represented Glad Day, said "the Liberals have basically slapped a new coat of paint on the old powers and presented it as new legislation. . . . It is neither progressive nor courageous."

In addition, Glad Day is unhappy that the new bill expands the scope of the OFRB's power by allowing the board to both classify and censor films, Mr. Addario said.

"They say they are only going censor stuff that is otherwise illegal under the Criminal Code, like obscene material and child pornography, but that's what the police do," he said.

Mr. Kuwabara acknowledges support Glad Day received from other retailers and patrons, but doesn't know another party willing to advocate gay and lesbian rights to the extent the bookshop has.

"There are probably a lot of other individuals or businesses or organizations out there that would like to support us or help fight this.

"The fact of the matter remains we can't headline any more, we can't be the front-runner for this fight because we don't have the resources."