Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, has apologised in parliament for his country’s past treatment of LGBTIQ people, “with shame and sorrow and deep regret”.
On Tuesday, Trudeau said the criminalising of homosexuality and the persecution and firing of LGBTIQ individuals from the government and the military had been wrong.
He also admitted the government’s role in suppressing “two-spirit indigenous values and beliefs”, which refers to third-gender or gender-variant individuals acknowledged by some indigenous North American communities.
“The state orchestrated a culture of stigma and fear around LGBTQ2 communities. And in doing so, destroyed people’s lives,” said Trudeau.
He stated that choosing to serve a country’s citizens was one of the greatest choices that a person could make.
“Now imagine, if you will, being told that the very country you would willingly lay down your life to defend doesn’t want you. Doesn’t accept you. Sees you as defective. Sees you as a threat to our national security.
“Not because you can’t do the job, or because you lack patriotism or courage — no, because of who you are as a person, and because of who your sexual partners are,” said Trudeau.
“Imagine having to fight for the basic rights that your peers enjoy, over and over again. And imagine being criminalised for being who you are. This is the truth for many of the Canadians present in the gallery today, and those listening across the country.”
Trudeau continued: “For the oppression of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit communities, we apologise. 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, the government proposed introducing a bill to expunge the records of those who had been prosecuted for having consensual, adult same-sex relations.
It also announced that it had set aside C$100m to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by LGBT former employees of the military and other federal agencies who were victims of discrimination.
Rights group Egale Canada welcomed the apology. “Today we witnessed a step forward for the LGBTQI2S community,” it said. “The apology was heartfelt and sincere and is definitely a start. We have plenty of work ahead in the fight for equality, but tonight we will celebrate this victory.”
Canada has now joined a growing number of countries, such as Scotland, England, Wales, Germany and New Zealand, that have recently apologised to the LGBTIQ+ community and moved to clear the criminal records of those who were convicted of consensual gay sex.