Trudeau’s apol­ogy to the LGBTQ+ com­mu­nity, one year later

The News (New Glasgow) - - OPINION - Ger­ard Veld­hoven Ger­ard Veld­hoven is a long time gay rights ac­tivist. Com­ments and in­for­ma­tion: lgbt­con­nec­tion­[email protected]

Last year, on Nov. 28, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau rose in the House of Com­mons to apol­o­gize for the ter­ri­ble wrongs com­mit­ted to­wards gays and les­bians in the Cana­dian Armed Forces and civil ser­vice.

This his­toric oc­ca­sion, long over­due, had a tremen­dous im­pact on those who served. For more than 30 years, and it lasted un­til the 1990s, thou­sands lost their jobs and many faced pros­e­cu­tion be­cause of their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion. The pol­icy af­fected Cana­di­ans in the mil­i­tary, the pub­lic ser­vice and the Royal Cana­dian Mounted Po­lice. The gallery was filled with vic­tims and their sup­port­ers.

Mr. Trudeau apol­o­gized for Canada’s role in the sys­tem­atic op­pres­sion, crim­i­nal­iza­tion, and vi­o­lence against mem­bers of the LGBTQ+ com­mu­nity.

“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,” he said. He went on to say, “It is my hope that in talk­ing about these in­jus­tices, vow­ing never to re­peat them, and act­ing to right these wrongs, we can be­gin to heal.”

The govern­ment also promised to pay up to $110 mil­lion to com­pen­sate vic­tims of the so-called “gay purge” — decades of govern­ment-au­tho­rized dis­crim­i­na­tion against gay Cana­di­ans. Leg­is­la­tion was in­tro­duced to ex­punge “un­just con­vic­tions” from the ju­di­cial records of peo­ple charged un­der laws that crim­i­nal­ize ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. There have been re­ports from cer­tain peo­ple that this is just not enough, that it was a ploy by Trudeau to get the votes. The apol­ogy was sin­cere and com­plete, mak­ing this the sin­gle most im­por­tant de­ci­sion since LGBTQ rights be­came en­trenched in our laws.

Much has hap­pened since my time of re­veal­ing my sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion 44 years ago. Equal­ity is not ac­com­plished in a short pe­riod of time, but with much pa­tience, ed­u­ca­tion and rais­ing aware­ness, we will ex­pe­ri­ence more equal­ity, hope­fully in con­junc­tion with less­en­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion. A tall order, to be sure. There are many ob­sta­cles that leave us with the re­spon­si­bil­ity to be more de­ter­mined, to be more vo­cal, to in­crease our in­tent to fight for equal­ity as all oth­ers, and to ap­proach the is­sues with clar­ity, pa­tience and shift the po­lit­i­cal land­scape, re­gard­less of the apol­ogy.

The present govern­ment’s sup­port for equal rights does not nec­es­sar­ily in­di­cate that fu­ture gov­ern­ments will be on side. We are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing this with On­tario’s Pre­mier Doug Ford, a Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive, who as a Trump wannabe has re­versed the sex ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy in the schools, a def­i­nite step back. He has the rep­u­ta­tion for dis­dain to­wards the LGBTQ+ com­mu­nity, and he is not alone.

More needs to be done and con­tinue the ef­forts well into the next cen­tury.

Mean­while we cel­e­brate the gains, ap­pre­ci­ate the apol­ogy from Justin Trudeau, de­tailed and mean­ing­ful. The fact the is­sues re­main a chal­lenge in the months and years ahead, we must em­brace our al­lies, ed­u­cate those who re­ject us be­cause of dis­crim­i­na­tion within some re­li­gious right-wing be­liefs, a chal­leng­ing ar­du­ous project.

The apol­ogy from the Lib­eral govern­ment was also meant as a tool to con­tinue ef­forts to­wards rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween all Cana­di­ans, a pos­i­tive step to unify. Apolo­gies must be fol­lowed by pos­i­tive ac­tion, or be viewed as hol­low state­ments.

We learn of this daily as the pope, po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, sports heroes, en­ter­tain­ers or any other per­son at­tempts to rec­tify a state­ment that clearly in­di­cates a re­jec­tion if not fol­lowed by a pos­i­tive ac­tion so that true heal­ing has a chance.

This first-year an­niver­sary must be rec­og­nized as a pos­i­tive and cel­e­bra­tions are in order. We re­al­ize the op­po­si­tion forces that deny the nor­malcy of one’s sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, true gen­der iden­tity or ex­pres­sion.

Many are vo­cal in their dis­crim­i­na­tory thoughts and ex­pres­sions. Dis­crim­i­na­tion is the worst of­fense of our time.

Thanks to Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau, a clearer path has been paved.

Mil­lions of oth­ers are like­wise thanked for their per­sis­tence to en­gage a more pos­i­tive so­ci­ety.

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