The Ottawa Sun
Thursday, May 28, 1998
page 1

City tangled in web of sex

Ottawa malls, hotels, parks listed in online gay sex tour guide

by Maria McClintock, mariamcclintock@hotmail.com

Regional police are investigating a San Francisco-based website that lists public places in Ottawa where gay washroom sex is readily available. [ http://www.best.com/~dkg/ottawa.html ]

The Ottawa Sun has learned the investigation stems from two separate complaints laid since April 22 by Net users concerned children could be exposed to the material.

The website is billed as a guide for homosexual men and refers to listings for tourist information, emergency numbers, and nightclubs.

But it also lists the locations where casual gay sex is available.

Regional Police Sgt. Keith Daniels, an expert in cyber sex crimes, confirmed the investigation is underway.

"Yes, we've had complaints that this site exists and that children could attend these places", Daniels said.

"It's not that the children are at risk of being sexually assaulted -- they are at risk of seeing something they shouldn't.

"They should be able to frequent these places and feel safe", Daniels said.

The site lists 10 Ottawa-area locations -- including shopping malls, hotels and parks.

"Some were quite a surprise to us", Daniels said.

Posting information on the 'Net about such locations isn't illegal, Daniels said. But having sex in a public place is an indecent act under the Criminal Code.

Now that the information has been brought to the attention of police, there are a number of options open to authorities.

"There could be some special (police) attention in those areas or mall security could be tightened or all of the above", Daniels said, declining to be specific. But most malls, hotels, and parks already have their own security teams which regularly patrol the listed areas.

Rideau Centre marketing manager Cindy VanBuskirk wasn't aware the mall was one of the spots listed on the website, but added there have been similar incidents in the past.

"It's socially irresponsible to be encouraging activity that is illegal, regardless of who is participating", VanBuskirk said. She said washrooms and hallways in the mall are frequently checked by security staff.

"It's our obligation to provide a safe environment for our patrons", VanBuskirk added.

A warning about the website was posted in a newsletter issued several months ago by the New York-based International Council of Shopping Centres. But VanBuskirk said she had no idea the Rideau Centre was on the list.

Robert Pratt, general manager of the Westin Hotel, also was unaware a washroom at the hotel made the website.

"From our perspective it's an unknown", Pratt said.

"We have 24-hour, highly trained security because this is a first-class hotel and we take every precaution to ensure the welfare of the people staying here", he said.

National Capital Commission spokesman Patrice Miron admitted it is aware Remic Rapids has a reputation as a location for public sexual activities.

Some of the thick bushes along the bike paths near Remic Rapids were cut back for better visibility and safety, he said.

"But I'm surprised about Meech Lake", Miron said, noting the area is known to attract nude sunbathers, not those seeking public sexual encounters.

Place d'Orleans general manager Chris St. Amand said he was also unaware the mall made the list.

"I'm surprised and bothered by this", St. Amand said.

John Fisher, the executive director of Ottawa-based EGALE -- Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere -- wouldn't condemn nor condone the site because he had not seen it himself.

"I'm hoping that police take the same kind of approach to sites promoting heterosexual sex with equal zealousness", he added.

-- With files from Tara Tosh

Copyright © 1998 by The Ottawa Sun. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.