From the 1950s into the 1990s, the Canadian Government monitored and interrogated government employees who were suspected of being LGBTQ. Over the decades, thousands of citizens in public service, the military, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, were fired or intimidated into leaving their jobs.
Speaking to the Canadian House of Commons, handsome Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tearfully apologized for a government that considered gay and trans people to be at increased risk of being blackmail by Canada’s adversaries. He said that the policy was nothing short of a witch-hunt.
“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. These aren’t distant practices of governments long forgotten. This happened systematically in Canada with a timeline more recent than any of us would like to admit.”
Trudeau said the Canadian government and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police spied on their own people, inside and outside of the workplaces. He noted that Canadians were subjected to state-sponsored, systematic oppression and rejection for anything that could be construed as gay behavior, with community groups, bars, parks and even people’s homes under surveillance. Trudeau said when the government felt that enough evidence had accumulated, some suspects were taken to secret locations to be interrogated.
Speaking to a packed and emotional chamber, Trudeau expressed remorse to Canadians who endured discrimination and injustice based on their sexual orientation:
“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. I am sorry. We are sorry. For state-sponsored, systemic oppression and rejection, we are sorry.”
Two years into their power, the Liberal Party’s apology is the latest in a series of statements seeking to make amends for historical wrongs. Trudeau used a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September to acknowledge Canada has failed its indigenous people.
Trudeau’s government also introduced legislation that would allow people to apply to have their criminal convictions for consensual sexual activity between same-sex partners erased from public record forever. The bill would also allow spouses, parents, siblings, children or legal representatives to apply for record expungement on behalf of those deceased. Many family members might not even be aware they had someone in their family who was subjected to the “queer purge”.
The government has also earmarked more than $100 million Canadian dollars (US $78 million) to compensate employees of federal agencies whose careers were ruined just because they were LGBTQ. It is part of a class-action settlement with Canadians who were investigated, sanctioned or fired as part of the “gay purge”.
“Those arrested and charged were purposefully and vindictively shamed. Their names appeared in newspapers in order to humiliate them, and their families. Lives were destroyed. And tragically, lives were lost.”
“It is our collective shame that you were so mistreated. And it is our collective shame that this apology took so long, many who suffered are no longer alive to hear these words. And for that, we are truly sorry.”
Members of Parliament, many in tears, gave a standing ovation to Trudeau’s apology.
Trudeau said LGBTQ Canadians were discriminated against by laws that “bolstered and emboldened” those who hated anyone who wasn’t heterosexual:
“Our laws made private and consensual sex between same-sex partners a criminal offence, leading to the unjust arrest, conviction, and imprisonment of Canadians. This criminalization would have lasting impacts for things like employment, volunteering, and travel.”
Trudeau called on Canadians to commit to ending discrimination against LGBTQ people, who still face of more aggression, violence, mental health issues and homelessness than other Canadians.