Apology to LGBTQ community first step toward healing

Posted on November 2, 2017 in Inclusion Policy Context

TheStar.com – Opinion/Rditorials – Even as he makes history, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apology on behalf of Canadians will not be the end of this matter. Rather, it will be a welcome step toward a more just society.
Nov. 20, 2017.   By

Apology, when sincere and unequivocal, is the essential lubricant in human relations and one of the most profound, if difficult, events that can take place between individuals, groups or nations.

That Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced he will formally apologize in the House of Commons on Nov. 28 for Canada’s history of “persecution and injustices” inflicted on sexual minorities can only be applauded.

The record of how LGBTQ2 Canadians were treated by their own government, and the human pain and cost that resulted because of that treatment, is egregious.

The “We Demand an Apology Network,” for one, has chronicled national security campaigns to purge homosexuals from Canada’s public service, the RCMP and the military. From the 1950s to the early 1990s, thousands of federal employees were fired simply because they were lesbian, gay or bisexual. The RCMP had a database in the 1960s of some 9,000 “expected” gay men and lesbians working in the federal government. For many, their careers, livelihoods, relationships and health were ruined.

“People were watched, followed, interrogated and purged from their jobs,” the network has said. Lives were lost to suicide.

Among other things, LGBTQ2 advocates say the government should compensate victims, ensure honourable discharges are recorded for those discharged from the military for being homosexual and grant pardons to those convicted for consensual homosexual activities during years when such acts were illegal.

“An apology for the wrongs committed by the Government of Canada against LGBT people is the least that is required to begin to right these wrongs,” the Network said in a report last year.

Also in 2016, the advocacy group Egale published “The Just Society Report: Grossly Indecent,” documenting abuses against LGBTQ2 communities and outlining steps the government should take by way of redress.

The artful title drew, of course, on the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s promise to Canadians and the legal phrase under which gay Canadians were prosecuted.

“Canada has a tragic history of state-sponsored homophobia, biphobia and transphobia,” said the report, dedicated to countless thousands of Canadians who suffered persecution “because of who they are and who they loved.”

As both groups rightly made clear, words will not be enough.

To be effective, apologies must acknowledge the offence and harms done. They must express remorse. They must undertake to learn from the experience and not repeat offensive behaviours. And they must make reparation.

“Substantive equality is impossible without honouring the full truth of historical queer injustice,” the Egale report said. “All queer Canadians deserve truth and reconciliation for the historical misuses of state power that eroded their human dignity.”

Even as he makes history, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apology on behalf of Canadians will not be the end of this matter.

Rather, it will be a welcome step toward a more just society.


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