PM apol­o­gizes for decades of LGBTQ2 dis­crim­i­na­tion

The Daily Courier - - NEWS -

OTTAWA (CP) — Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau be­gan by telling a story — one that be­gan not that long ago and, in some ways, is still un­fold­ing — about how the fed­eral govern­ment spent decades ru­in­ing the ca­reers and lives of Cana­di­ans be­cause of their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity.

“This is the dev­as­tat­ing story of peo­ple who were branded crim­i­nals by the govern­ment — peo­ple who lost their liveli­hoods, and in some cases, their lives,” Trudeau said Tues­day as he de­liv­ered a speech build­ing up to his promised apol­ogy for past state-sanc­tioned dis­crim­i­na­tion against mem­bers of the LGBTQ2 com­mu­nity in Canada.

“Th­ese aren’t dis­tant prac­tices of gov­ern­ments long for­got­ten,” he said.

“This hap­pened sys­tem­at­i­cally, in Canada, with a time­line more re­cent than any of us would like to ad­mit.”

Dozens of peo­ple — in­clud­ing two of Trudeau’s own chil­dren, Xavier and Ella-Grace — crammed into the var­i­ous House of Com­mons gal­leries to wit­ness the his­toric oc­ca­sion, which the prime min­is­ter said he hopes will fi­nally al­low the heal­ing process to be­gin for those af­fected.

The ex­pres­sion of re­gret, and the emo­tional re­ac­tion to its de­liv­ery, built like a crescendo as Trudeau walked through the ways the fed­eral govern­ment caused harm to les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, trans­gen­der, queer and two-spir­ited peo­ple, a term used broadly to de­scribe In­dige­nous Peo­ples who iden­tify as part of the com­mu­nity.

That in­cluded the crim­i­nal­iza­tion of ho­mo­sex­ual sex­ual ac­tiv­ity, raids on bath­houses, pub­lic hu­mil­i­a­tion and ef­forts to rid the mil­i­tary and the pub­lic ser­vice of LGBTQ peo­ple, un­til as re­cently as 1992.

Then, Trudeau be­gan to move on from the les­son in his­tory to the ab­ject apol­ogy for it hav­ing hap­pened in the first place.

“It is with shame and sor­row and deep re­gret for the things we have done that I stand here to­day and say: We were wrong. We apol­o­gize,” he said. “I am sorry. We are sorry.” That was the point when one man in the gallery, where some had been qui­etly wip­ing tears from their eyes, be­gan clap­ping his hands.

Oth­ers, many wear­ing name badges and rain­bow rib­bons, be­gan to join in, un­til all the MPs on the floor of the House of Com­mons were on their feet for the straight­for­ward ex­pres­sion of re­gret.

Lib­eral MP Rob Oliphant, who sat be­side Trudeau through­out the apol­ogy, said that was a key mo­ment for him.

“There was no equiv­o­ca­tion. There was no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion,” said Oliphant, who said he felt many of the ex­pe­ri­ences of his life as a gay man, from play­ground taunts to lost job op­por­tu­ni­ties, flash be­fore his eyes as the prime min­is­ter spoke.

“There was no, ‘Well, we didn’t know things that we know now,”’ he said. “There was none of that.”

The apol­ogy was ac­com­pa­nied by sev­eral ini­tia­tives to make amends.

The Lib­eral govern­ment in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion Tues­day which, if passed, will al­low the ex­punge­ment of crim­i­nal records for peo­ple con­victed of con­sen­sual sex­ual ac­tiv­ity with same-sex part­ners.

The govern­ment has also ear­marked $110 mil­lion to com­pen­sate mem­bers of the mil­i­tary and other fed­eral agen­cies whose ca­reers were side­lined or ended due to their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, the cen­tre­piece of a class-ac­tion set­tle­ment with em­ploy­ees who were in­ves­ti­gated, sanc­tioned and some­times forced out of their jobs.

As part of the set­tle­ment, the govern­ment will also pay an ad­di­tional $20 mil­lion for le­gal fees and ad­min­is­tra­tion and de­vote at least $15 mil­lion more for memo­rial ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing mu­seum ex­hibits, a na­tional mon­u­ment and pos­si­ble archival projects.

Sep­a­rately, the govern­ment is putting $250,000 to­ward com­mu­nity projects to com­bat ho­mo­pho­bia and pro­vide sup­port for peo­ple in cri­sis, and in 2019 plans to com­mem­o­rate the 50th an­niver­sary of the fed­eral de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion of ho­mo­sex­ual acts.

Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer echoed the sen­ti­ment ex­pressed by the prime min­is­ter.

“In this coun­try, we de­plore and we con­demn in­jus­tice to­wards the in­no­cent, the op­pressed and the per­se­cuted,” said Scheer, who urged ev­ery­one to stand up for hu­man rights both at home and abroad, where many coun­tries still crim­i­nal­ize ho­mo­sex­ual ac­tiv­ity.

Scheer, who has voted against the trans­gen­der rights bill and re­fused to take part in gay pride pa­rades, leads a Con­ser­va­tive cau­cus where many share those so­cial con­ser­va­tive views. There were many Con­ser­va­tive MPs who did not at­tend the apol­ogy.

The Cana­dian Press

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau pauses while mak­ing a for­mal apol­ogy to in­di­vid­u­als harmed by fed­eral leg­is­la­tion, poli­cies, and prac­tices that led to the op­pres­sion of and dis­crim­i­na­tion against LGBTQ2 peo­ple in Canada, in the House of Com­mons in Ottawa on Tues­day.

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