Trudeau apologizes for decades of LGBTQ discrimination
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologized for a decades-long campaign by previous governments to rid the military and public service of LGBTQ people, calling the cold war crackdown a “collective shame,” The Guardian reports.
From the 1950s to the early 1990s, the Canadian government monitored and interrogated civil servants who were believed to be gay or transgender. Thousands in the public service, military and Royal Canadian Mounted Police were fired or intimidated into leaving their jobs, The Guardian reports.
Speaking in the House of Commons, the Canadian prime minister said the thinking gay people would be at increased risk of blackmail by Canada’s adversaries 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,” Trudeau said.
“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 public service, the military and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police spied on their own people, inside and outside of the workplaces. He said Canadians were monitored for anything that could be construed as gay behavior, with community groups, bars, parks and even people’s homes under watch. He said when the government felt that enough evidence had accumulated, some suspects were taken to secret locations in the dark of night to be interrogated. He said those who admitted they were gay were fired, discharged, or intimidated into resignation.
“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,” Trudeau said.
“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,” Trudeau said to a standing ovation.
The apology was the latest in a series of statements by the two-year-old Liberal government seeking to make amends for historical wrongs. The government earmarked more than $100m Canadian (US $78m) 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 earlier on Tuesday also proposed legislation that will allow the criminal records of those convicted of sexual activity with same-sex partners to be permanently destroyed.