Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered a historic apology to LGBTQ Canadians in the House of Commons yesterday, apologizing for the federal government’s years of "systematic oppression and rejection."
During his formal apology to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited people, a term used broadly to describe Indigenous Peoples who identify as part of the community, Trudeau expressed shame, sorrow and regret to all of the civil servants, military members and criminalized Canadians who endured discrimination and injustice based on their sexual orientation throughout the years. That included the criminalization of homosexual sexual activity, raids on bathhouses, public humiliation and efforts to rid the military and the public service of LGBTQ people, until as recently as 1992.
"You are professionals. You are patriots. And above all, you are innocent. And for all your suffering, you deserve justice, and you deserve peace," he said. "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."
At times wiping tears from his eyes, the Prime Minister told the House of Commons: "Over our history, laws and policies enacted by the government led to the legitimization of much more than inequality – they legitimized hatred and violence, and brought shame to those targeted. … 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."
The apology had unanimous support within the House and MPs rose together in applause to the apology. Although it should be noted that there were many Conservative MPs who opted not attend the apology.
Trudeau's address to the House followed years of demands by the LGBTQ community for an apology and redress for decades of active discrimination against sexual minorities by the federal government.
The apology was accompanied by several initiatives to make amends. Trudeau's Liberal government introduced legislation Tuesday which, if passed, will allow the expungement of criminal records for people convicted of consensual sexual activity with same-sex partners.
The government has also earmarked $110 million to compensate members of the military and other federal agencies whose careers were ended due to their sexual orientation. As part of the settlement, the government will also pay an additional $20 million for legal fees and devote at least $15 million more for memorial activities, including museum exhibits, a national monument, and possible archival projects.
Click here to read Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s full apology to members of Canada’s LGBTQ community.