Canada Has A History Of LGBTQ Persecution, And Justin Trudeau Wants To Apologize For It

"It reaffirms the fact that we're not broken, there's not something horribly wrong with us."

For nearly 40 years (and likely long before that), the Canadian government discriminated against members of the LGBTQ community who wished to serve in the military or be employed by the Canadian government. Now, Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said he plans to apologize for a myriad of discriminatory policies that remained in effect until 1992. 

Trudeau — who is a self-declared feminist and advocate for equal rights — made the important announcement on Twitter on November 19. Per the tweet, below, Trudeau is expected to apologize "for the persecution and injustices" at the House of Commons next week.


According to the BBC, hundreds of gay men and lesbians in Canada lost government and military jobs during the Cold War because of their sexual orientation. Said Canadians were harassed and interrogated under a national security campaign now known as the "LGBT purge," and many lost their pensions and medical coverage along with their jobs, leading to further struggles down the line. Thousands across Canada were also criminalized for their sexuality.

Simon Thwaites, who was demoted and eventually fired from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) after being asked to name other military members who were gay, challenged his dismissal in 1994 and won, but he's still waiting for a formal apology because it "reaffirms the fact that we're not broken, there's not something horribly wrong with us."

"We didn't do anything wrong by just being ourselves," he added to the outlet.

The Globe and Mail reports Trudeau's upcoming apology, which comes after advocates for sexual minorities and members of the LGBTQ community filed a class action lawsuit seeking both verbal and monetary redress, is "expected to be the most comprehensive ever offered by any national government for past persecution of sexual minorities." In making the apology, the BBC notes Canada will be following in the footsteps of the U.K., Australia, and Germany — three territories that have previously issued official mea culpas for past injustices to their LGBTQ citizens.

Trudeau is also expected to offer pardons and to expunge the records of those who were convicted of crimes because of their sexuality. 

And as HuffPost points out, Trudeau's upcoming apology comes as the current U.S. administration has discriminated against members of the LGBTQ community in a variety of ways, including by rescinding Obama-era protections for transgender students and by (unsuccessfully) declaring transgender people cannot serve in the military.

By contrast, Trudeau marked Transgender Day of Remembrance with a moving tweet, below, on November 20.

HuffPost also notes this expression of regret to the LGBTQ community comes after Trudeau has made similar apologies to indigenous peoples for past treatment, and to hundreds of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu people who were forced to head back to violence in India in 1914 after being turned away from Canada.

Though the financial aspect of Canada's apology to its persecuted LGBTQ citizens has not been finalized, those who fought to be compensated in some way are pleased the wrongs committed against LGBTQ Canadians are now formally being rectified. Helen Kennedy, the executive director of one of the advocacy groups that fought for those who were discriminated against, told The Globe and Mail, "For those who were directly impacted, I hope it gives them some vindication."


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