LGBTory Canada was asked to make a submission to the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) committee tasked with providing input to the Prime Minister’s Special Advisor on LGBTQ2 Issues, MP Randy Boissonnault, regarding the Government of Canada’s upcoming apology to LGBTQ2 Canadians. The committee was asked to submit responses to four specific questionsh on the subject of the treatment of LGBTQ2 Canadians by the federal government. Our submission to the CPC committee follows:
The Government of Canada has committed to issuing an apology to LGBTQ2 Canadians, their families, partners, and communities, for discrimination and unjust treatment as a result of federal legislation, programs and policy. LGBTory Canada supports this initiative, and recommends that all federal political parties, including the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC), support the Government and acknowledge their responsibility for this past discrimination.
This historic injustice is not only incompatible with the rights guarantees outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but it runs counter to the CPC’s own founding principles as outlined in its Constitution. These state that the party will be guided by, among other things:
- A belief in the equality of all Canadians.
- A belief in the freedom of the individual, including freedom of speech, worship and assembly.
- [A belief in] the freedom of individual Canadians to pursue their enlightened and legitimate self-interest within a competitive economy.
- A belief that the purpose of Canada as a nation state and its government, guided by reflective and prudent leadership, is to create a climate wherein individual initiative is rewarded, excellence is pursued, security and privacy of the individual is provided and prosperity is guaranteed by a free competitive market economy.
LGBTory Canada joins other Conservatives in welcoming this opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to our core principles and to join Canadians of all parties in righting the historic wrongs committed against the LGBTQ2 community by the Government of Canada.
- From your perspective, why should the Government of Canada apologize to LGBTQ2 Canadians?
Although LGBTQ2 people in Canada currently enjoy protection of their legal and civil rights equal to other Canadians, this has not always been the case. Until relatively recently in the country’s history, LGBTQ2 people were denied many basic rights accorded to other Canadians, including equal treatment under the law and freedom from discrimination. Many of these infringements were a direct result of federal laws and policies that targeted or neglected the LGBTQ2 community. An apology to those affected by these discriminatory policies would acknowledge the Government of Canada’s role in this historic mistreatment, and recognize the harms done to Canadians affected by it.
- Are there specific examples of wrongs that you feel should be addressed?
- There are many cases of historic federal laws that affected LGBTQ2 Canadians, often in harsh and cruel ways. During British colonial rule, same-sex sexual activity in Canada was a capital crime, punishable by death. Although there is no record of the death penalty being carried out for this purpose in Canada, same-sex relations were harshly punished and the threat of execution hung over anyone caught in a same-sex sexual relationship. The Dominion of Canada ended the death penalty for the crime of “sodomy” in 1869 but gay men continued to be charged with “gross indecency” for consensual same-sex sexual activity well into the 20th century.
- Same-sex sexual activity was illegal in Canada until 1969, when it was decriminalized following the prosecution of Everett George Klippert. After his arrest on another matter, Mr. Klippert voluntarily admitted to having recently had consensual sex with another man and was charged with gross indecency. He was declared by a court-appointed psychiatrist to be an “incurable homosexual” and was sentenced to indefinite “preventive detention”. His conviction was upheld on appeal by the Supreme Court of Canada. His case prompted the Government of Canada to amend the Criminal Code in 1969 to decriminalize homosexual acts between consenting adults. Mr. Klippert remained in prison until 1971. However, despite the changes in 1969, the crime of “buggery” remained in the Criminal Code, effectively making consensual anal sex between gay men illegal. Some 200 men a year were convicted of this offence until 1988 when it was removed from the Criminal Code. Over 6000 convictions for buggery are still in police databases, dating back to 1939. Any surviving men convicted of this offence still have a criminal record. To this day, the Criminal Code of Canada still discriminates against gay men in its provisions governing anal intercourse; section 159 states that “every person who engages in an act of anal intercourse is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.” The Code mandates exceptions for acts engaged, in private, between “husband and wife”, and for “any two persons, each of whom is eighteen years of age or more, both of whom consent to the act.” Since the legal age of consent for consensual heterosexual vaginal intercourse is sixteen, this section of the Criminal Code clearly targets young same-sex male couples unfairly in a manner that doesn’t apply to heterosexual couples. The Government of Canada announced its intention to repeal section 159 in November 2016, but has so far failed to do so.
- Openly LGBTQ2 people were, until relatively recently, prohibited from serving in the Canadian military, the RCMP, and the federal civil service because they were deemed to be a “security threat”. Thousands of LGBTQ2 people who were suspected of homosexuality were placed under surveillance, interrogated, and subjected to polygraph tests and psychiatric examinations. They were frequently bullied into admitting their homosexuality, after which they were either discharged or denied security clearance. Canada’s military ombudsman estimates that as many as 1200 service men and women were given dishonourable discharges because of their sexual orientation. This policy was not overturned until 1992 when courts ruled that it violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but not before many careers were destroyed and lives ruined.
- What actions can the Government undertake in order to promote awareness of the issues LGBTQ2 people have faced and foster understanding going forward
- A public apology to the LGBTQ2 people who were victims of discrimination and whose lives and careers were harmed by laws and policies of the Government of Canada
- Continued support for the office of Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 Issues and a commitment by the Special Advisor to consult with all federal political parties in Parliament on LGBTQ2 issues
- A coordinated effort by all departments and agencies of the Government of Canada to address the unique circumstances of the LGBTQ2 community, especially LGBTQ2 youth
- What can the Government do to demonstrate ongoing commitment to promoting equality for LGBTQ2 people?
- The Government of Canada should, where possible and appropriate, pardon LGBTQ2 people who were convicted of historic criminal offences related to homosexual activity under obsolete laws that have been since repealed.
- Section 159 of the Criminal Code of Canada should be repealed.
- Former employees of the federal civil service, the RCMP, and the Canadian Armed Forces who are still living and whose careers were affected by discriminatory anti-LGBTQ2 policies should be compensated for lost income and earning potential, pensions, and other financial hardships resulting from their treatment by the Government of Canada.
- There is an urgent need for action directed at the unique needs of LGBTQ2 youth, who are at particular risk in Canada. Every year, approximately 500 LGBTQ2 young people commit suicide in this country, and LGBTQ2 youth are four times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers. LGBTQ2 youth are over-represented in homeless populations in Canada; it has been estimated that 25-40% of young people experiencing homelessness are LGBTQ2. In Toronto, 20% of the youth in the shelter system identify as LGBTQ2, which is more than twice the rate for all age groups. LGBTQ2 youth experience higher rates of mental illness than heterosexual youth, and are more likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and other substances. LGBTQ2 youth are more likely to be subjected to bullying. In a 2009 Canadian study, 59% of LGBTQ2 youth reported being verbally harassed, vs 7% of non-LGBTQ2 youth. 25% reported being physically harassed, compared to 8% of non-LGBTQ2 youth, and 73% of LGBTQ2 youth reported feeling unsafe at school, vs. 20% of their non-LGBTQ2 peers. All departments and agencies of the Government of Canada with responsibilities for young people should make the needs of the LGBTQ2 community a priority.
LGBTQ2 Canadians have historically been adversely affected by discrimination due to laws and policies enacted and enforced by their own government; many have been prevented by this discrimination from participating fully in the civic and economic opportunities available to other Canadians. These discriminatory policies are inconsistent with the values that Conservatives and Canadians in general hold dear, and are a blot on the record of Canada’s progress towards an open, tolerant society where all citizens have equal rights. It is important to remember that governments of all political stripes, including Conservative governments, share responsibility for the historic injustices committed against LGBTQ2 Canadians in the past. We welcome this opportunity for all Canadian political parties to acknowledge the mistakes of the past and chart a new way forward.
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