It’s time for Canada to right historic wrongs against LGBTQ Community

Posted on May 18, 2016 in Equality History – News/Politics/Politics Insider
May 18, 2016.   John Ibbitson

The Trudeau government deserves high praise for the legislation tabled on Tuesday to protect transgender Canadians from discrimination. In some U.S. states, new laws actively persecute transgender people. In Canada, the exact opposite will be true.

Unlike previous private-members’ bills on transgender rights that were hung up in the Senate, this government-sponsored legislation should make it through both houses, especially now that many Conservatives, such as Tony Clement and David Tilson, have decided to back it.

‘We should feel free and safe to be ourselves’: Justice Minister on transgender bill (CP Video)
It also high time for Justin Trudeau to right two historic wrongs. First, he should pardon thousands of gay men who were convicted of gross indecency before homosexual acts were decriminalized in 1969. Their only crime was being who they were.

In particular, the Prime Minister should pardon the late Everett Klippert, who spent a total of 10 years in prison and who was declared a dangerous sexual offender simply because he was gay.

The Government of Canada should also apologize to the thousands in the public service and military who were dismissed or otherwise discriminated against because they were homosexual, a practice that continued right up until the late 1980s.

The Liberals have been studying both questions for months. Justice Department lawyers often warn that political apologies can expose governments to expensive lawsuits from victims, with the apology serving as proof of guilt.

But as a leading authority in the field points out, not only are such fears overblown, “a meaningful, effective apology can have the opposite effect. Rather than encourage litigation, it can cause people to accept the past more easily.”

Leslie Macleod, a former assistant deputy attorney-general of Ontario, teaches dispute resolution at York University’s Osgoode Hall law school and is a leading authority in mediating and resolving disputes.

“The kind of apology that could be made here would address not only the emotional and psychological interests of those who suffered very dire consequences, it would also address the concerns that we as a society have about how people were treated in the past,” she says.

In that sense, people who see no reason for governments to apologize for acts that no one alive today committed miss the point: We apologize to remind each other of when we fell short in the past, so that we do not fall short in some other way going forward.

A meaningful, effective apology conforms to what could be called the Seven Rs. As described by Ms. Macleod, it involves the specific recognition of the harm caused; expresses remorse for that harm; takes responsibility and repents for the transgression; gives reasons for how the situation came about; offers reparation by way of making amends; and promises reform so nothing similar happens again.

The legislation to prevent discrimination against transgender people could be seen as in the spirit of fulfilling the seventh, and most important, of the seven Rs.

As for reparations, public servants I have talked to who lost their jobs because of their sexuality have, for the most part, gone on with their lives. They do not want money; they just want to be told that, on the terrible day when they were brought into a room, accused of being a homosexual and fired, the person on the other side of the table was in the wrong, not them.

Lawyer Dale Barrett has written about the apology laws on the books in most provinces, which make it easier for governments to apologize by reducing their liability. “It’s very important for government and society to reflect upon the changes in law and changes in sentiment and changes in attitude,” he says, “to acknowledge that society has changed, and to consider what changes we should be making in the future.”

With this new law protecting the rights of transgender people, Mr. Trudeau has advanced the cause of equality for Canada’s LGBTQ community. He should also acknowledge, on behalf of all Canadians, our collective responsibility for those in this community who suffered in the past at the hand of their own government.

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2 Responses to “It’s time for Canada to right historic wrongs against LGBTQ Community”

  1. Megan Davis says:

    This article starts off with saying that the Trudeau government deserves high praise for the legislation tabled to protect transgender Canadians from discrimination. While I agree that this is happy news worth celebrating, and makes me a proud supporter of Trudeau, I am not sure the government should be given so much praise for finally doing something that should have been done a long time ago just yet. Canada still has a bit of a ways to go when it comes to accepting transgenders. Canada has shown a deal of more consideration towards the LGBTQ community than some states in the US, but that does not mean there is no dark past. An apology would most definitely be effective by showing that previous wrongs are being acknowledged and they will not be repeated. Acknowledging what was done wrong is the first step to making things better. The government seems to be moving in the right direction, but all of Canada will need to continue to grow as an accepting society so that everyone can be themselves without a worry.

  2. For the most part, Canada has a respectable reputation regarding the acceptance surrounding the LGBTQ community.Though the rights and protection of this population have been increasingly made a Canadian priority, Canada can not credit themselves of this social justice for all of time. Unfortunately, these factors have not always been an issue that Canada has stood behind. As many know, there is a dark history behind the treatment of those who identify as part of the LGBTQ community. In response to these past events, the suggestion to condone a public apology directed towards those who suffered from the dire effects of lawful discrimination based on sexuality, seems to be a considerate assertion that can have potential benefit to Canada’s society. Often people associate politics with controversial systems that stem away from the simplicity of moral human nature.This suggestion of a public apology demonstrates Canada’s strategy of pulling in benevolent tactics in order to restore and contribute in some way to the healing of those impacted.This concept was also applied by the Canadian government in the year of 2008, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper publicly acknowledged and apologized for the grueling acts that took place towards indigenous Canadians.
    As mentioned in the article, those who experienced discrimination from the government based on their sexuality, are not interested in gaining some kind of financial benefiting as a concession for what they suffered.This demonstrates how powerful ownership and acknowledgment of an issue can be. Clearly, the Canadian government is recognizing that there is more to addressing an issue than just altering the law. This idea can be applied to the progressive and conventional views of social work. Though the progressive aspects of revising laws is important when tackling such issues of discrimination, the conventional approach of comforting a society is just as significant, and the two perspectives can be crucial for
    successfully developing a new way of governing, starting by repairing previous damage in a society. Overall, political afflictions often leave sectors of the population bitter regardless of the revised laws.This can cause these individuals to experience a disconnect between themselves and their country, losing faith in the ability of the government to continuously better Canada for years to come. By repairing these emotional holes, even in the slightest manner, Canada can enhance the satisfaction of the population, regaining trust, hope, and forgiveness among the communities impacted.


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