Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau To Issue Apology For Historic Persecution Of Gay Canadians

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau To Issue Apology For Historic Persecution Of Gay Canadians

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been doing an admirable job of carrying his father’s torch when it comes to LGBTQ Canadians, and according to The Globe and Mail, Trudeau intends to issue a sweeping apology, as early as this fall, to all homosexual Canadians who were unfairly persecuted. The apology comes as part of a series of long-overdue reforms of Canadian law as regards sexual orientation and gender identity.

In many ways, Justin is simply continuing his father’s work.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Canada in 1969, when Justin’s father Pierre Trudeau had just been appointed Prime Minister. Pierre Trudeau was famously quoted at the time as saying “The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation,” a quote which is still in use today. The process was begun by his predecessor, Lester Pearson (namesake of the Pearson International Airport in Toronto) while Pierre was serving as Justice Minister. The law was enacted the same weekend that Martin Luther King was assassinated, and helped define Canada for decades to come.

Canada has historically been a leader in gay rights but the relationship has never been a perfect one.
Back to the present, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has decided to enact most or all suggestions of a report titled The Just Society, submitted to the government in June by Egale, a national advocacy group for sexual minorities. The group’s name both stands for Equality For Gays and Lesbians Everywhere and is French for “equal”.

Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale, said that “This is a long-awaited moment and a very emotional moment, to be honest.”

“For the government to recognize the damage that it caused, the harm that it caused, to thousands and thousands of Canadians is a historic moment for our communities.”

Aside from the apology, some of the other recommendations included in the over-200-page report are:

  • Repeal of an extremely outdated federal ban on anal intercourse which specifically references “between husband and wife” as an exception and for which the age of consent is 18 years (age of consent for heterosexual intercourse is 16)
  • Reform of discriminatory prosecutorial processes
  • Requiring all police officers, justice system employees, and customs officials to receive human-rights training with emphasis on bias against sexual minorities
  • Recognizing and memorializing injustices against LGBTQ people
  • Eliminating or restricting “public morality offenses” which could be used to discriminate

And that’s just a small taste; the report is extremely comprehensive.

According to PinkNews, the information on the apology and reforms came from sources within Trudeau’s government, and the federal government has neither confirmed or denied their intention to put any specific recommendations into practice. The Prime Minister’s press secretary, Cameron Ahmad, issued a general statement.

“We have committed to working with Egale and other groups on an ongoing basis to bring an end to discrimination and further guarantee equality for all citizens. We are currently carefully reviewing the recommendations in their report, and will have more to say in the near future.”

Prime Minister Trudeau has made history as the first Prime Minister to attend a Pride parade (he has since attended several other Pride events) and has pledged to make exceptions to Canada’s security restrictions on refugees — the Canadian government normally won’t accept unaccompanied males — for gay men facing persecution from the Syrian government and the Islamic State.

During a moment of silence Toronto Pride participants displayed the names of the Pulse Nightclub shooting victims, reminding everyone that the struggle is ongoing.
According to the sources, the government will appoint a senior official to work with Egale and intends to act fully on the Just Society report before the next federal election.

If enacted, these reforms would make Canada one of the most LGBTQ-friendly nations in the world, alongside Germany and Australia, who are taking similar action.

[Photo by Ian Willms/Getty Images]