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In House of Commons, Trudeau apologizes for 'gay purge'

Last Updated Nov 28, 2017 at 3:45 pm PST

Justin Trudeau offered formal apology to the LGBTQ2 community in the House of Commons on Nov. 28, 2017. (Source: facebook.com/justinpjtrudeau)

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologized on behalf of the federal government for perpetrating decades of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.

Dozens of people — including two of Trudeau’s own kids, Xavier and Ella-Grace — jammed the House of Commons galleries to witness the historic occasion, which Trudeau says he hopes will allow the healing process to begin.

“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,” said Trudeau.

“While we may view modern Canada as a forward-thinking, progressive nation, we can’t forget our past: The state orchestrated a culture of stigma and fear around LGBTQ2 communities. And in doing so, destroyed people’s lives,” he said.

“For the oppression of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit communities, we apologize. On behalf of the government, Parliament, and the people of Canada: We were wrong. We are sorry. And we will never let this happen again.”

Earlier today, the Liberal government introduced legislation to allow the criminal records of people convicted of consensual sexual activity with same-sex partners to be expunged.

It has also earmarked more than $100 million to compensate members of the military and other federal agencies whose careers were sidelined or ended due to their sexual orientation, part of a class-action settlement with employees who were investigated, sanctioned and sometimes fired as part of the so-called “gay purge.”

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

The discriminatory policies that often ruined careers and lives had their roots in federal efforts that began as early as the 1940s to delve into the personal lives of people who were considered security risks — what Trudeau calls a prejudiced and flawed approach that triggered a witch hunt against LGBTQ people.

International activism needed following apology, UBC professor 

UBC instructor John Paul Catungal called it a moving apology that has more flushed out, comprehensive ideas than he expected.

He adds it was refreshing to see Trudeau acknowledge the ongoing struggles of minorities within the LGBTQ community, including people of colour and transgender individuals.

“It provides a stepping stone for community members to press the government for more support and funding; to essentially put their money where their mouth is in order to carry on the work to ensure that ongoing struggles are being redressed,” Catungal said.

Moving forward, however, Catungal would like to see Ottawa act internationally to ensure LGBTQ issues are part of the international agenda.

“It doesn’t become Canada’s way of asserting itself as morally superior to others but (it should be) grounded in that analysis of looking at the origins. Many also formally colonized countries where European impositions of gender and sexuality also remain at the heart of attitudes and policies that stigmatize LGBT people,” he said.

BC’s Premier weighs in

In a statement, BC Premier John Horgan says he welcomes the Prime Minister’s apology.

“LGBTQ2S+ kids face higher rates of depression and suicide due to discrimination and bullying. It is our responsibility to help change these social attitudes to embrace equality and acceptance,” he says, noting the province has recently adopted a Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan.