November 28, 2017 at 3:35 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Canada apologizes to victims of anti-LGBT government laws, policies

Justin Trudeau, gay news, Washington Blade

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Nov. 28, 2017, apologized to those who suffered persecution and discrimination under the country’s anti-LGBT laws and policies. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday apologized to those who suffered persecution and discrimination under the country’s anti-LGBT laws and policies.

Trudeau — who spoke in the Canadian House of Commons — formally apologized to Canadians who were convicted of “gross indecency” before the country decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in 1969. He also announced the introduction of a bill that would expunge the criminal records of those who were prosecuted under the law.

Trudeau formally apologized to those who were fired from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the country’s military and civil service because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. He also apologized Canadians who faced discrimination under anti-LGBT policies and regulations.

“The number one job of any government is to keep its citizens safe,” said Trudeau. “And on this, we have failed LGBTQ2 people, time and time again.”

“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 added. “We apologize. I am sorry. We are sorry.”

Trudeau in his speech also said the Canadian government has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by those who were forced out of the country’s military and civil service because of their sexual orientation. The Globe and Mail newspaper reported those who were victims of the anti-gay purge will receive payments of between $3,900-$117,150 ($5,000-$150,000 Canadian dollars.)

Denis LeBlanc, a retired LGBT and HIV/AIDS activist who lives in Ottawa, told the Washington Blade that he feels “so proud.”

“Canada’s prime minister’s sincere historic apology was 30 minutes in the House of Commons and it was deeply moving,” he said. “Well worth the half hour to listen.”

Canada is the latest country to formally apologize to men who were convicted under laws that criminalized homosexuality.

A law named after Alan Turing — a gay British mathematician who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 for having a relationship with another man — that pardoned gay and bisexual men in England and Wales who were charged under a law that criminalized consensual same-sex sexual acts took effect earlier this year. Germany and other countries have also taken similar actions.

Then-Secretary of State John Kerry in January formally apologized to State Department personnel who were fired for “alleged homosexuality” during the so-called “lavender scare” of the 1950s and 1960s. U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has introduced a bill that would allow those who were fired during the “lavender scare” to have their employment records expunged.

“I sincerely hope that, some day, an American president will issue a similar apology to gays and trans people in the USA,” LeBlanc told the Blade.

More than 70 countries around the world continue to criminalize homosexuality. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Mauritania are among the handful of nations in which those who are convicted of engaging in consensual same-sex sexual acts face the death penalty.

Discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains pervasive throughout many parts of the world.

Trudeau in his speech noted Canada earlier this year added gender identity and gender expression to the country’s nondiscrimination and hate crimes laws. He nevertheless said trans Canadians, LGBT youth and people with HIV/AIDS continue to face discrimination and violence in the country.

“We want to be a partner and ally to LGBTQ2 Canadians in the years going forward,” said Trudeau. “There are still real struggles facing these communities, including for those who are intersex, queer people of color, and others who suffer from intersectional discrimination.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

1 Comment
  • Someday hopefully we’ll get an apology for all the abuses of the the Trump administration! Reparations!

    Don’t get me started on all the right-wing christian conservatives have put the GLBT community through!

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