LGBTQ History

Canada to apologize for LGBT ‘purge’

justin trudeau pride
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with trans activist Biko Beauttah at Pride Toronto.Photo: Facebook/@bikofans

Canada will apologize for a government policy that purge LGBTQ people from public service and the military.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will deliver the apology in the House of Commons in Ottawa this afternoon.

“The Prime Minister will make a formal apology in the House of Commons to individuals harmed by federal legislation, policies, and practices that led to the oppression of and discrimination against LGBTQ2 people in Canada,” Trudeau’s official itinerary reads.

The policy began in the 1950s, inspired in part by fears that Soviet spies would have more leverage to blackmail LGBTQ people. Homosexual sex was illegal in the country until 1969.

The Canadian government is also expected to unveil details of an agreement in principle that was reached over the weekend with claimants in a class-action lawsuit alleging they were victims of discrimination due to the policy, Al Jazeera reports.

“People have been waiting an awful long time for this apology,” said Gary Kinsman, a professor and co-author of the book, The Canadian War on Queers: National Security as Sexual Regulation.

“Thousand of people are purged, lose their jobs, [and] lots of people are put under surveillance,” he said of life during under the policy.

“It also affects people who are outside the military and the public service because it’s those people who the RCMP [federal police] and military police try to coerce into giving up the names of their friends,” he added.

Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, said the policy “destroyed families, it destroyed people”and added that she hoped the apology would address these issues and help “people who were directly impacted…get a sense of healing and restored dignity and relief.”

The government even went so far as to try to detect gay and bisexual people by monitoring the dilation of people’s pupils while they were shown various erotic images. They called this the “fruit machine.”

A similar crackdown occurred in the United States during the same years, and in August a federal judge, against the Justice Department’s objections, ordered the FBI to conduct a new search for documents pertaining to the anti-LGBTQ policy.

Meanwhile, this morning the Canadian federal government tabled legislation that would expunge the criminal records of those convicted for consensual sex with a same-sex partner.

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