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Between 1950 and 1992, thousands of members of the LGBTQ community in Canada were discharged from the military, fired from public service jobs and denied employment opportunities because of their sexual orientations. Today, in the House of Commons, Justin Trudeau apologized for Canada’s dark history wherein people were criminalized and dismissed for their sexualities in a government-wide “witch hunt.”

“You are professionals. You are patriots. And above all, you are innocent. And for all your suffering, you deserve justice, and you deserve peace,” he said, “It is our collective shame that you were so mistreated. And it is our collective shame that this apology took so long – many who suffered are no longer alive to hear these words. And for that, we are truly sorry.”

In 1969, Pierre Trudeau decriminalized homosexuality, but in the 48 years since then, nothing has been done to legally exonerate those convicted of homosexuality as a crime in the time before. Part of this apology pledges $100 million to compensate the members of the military and government employees who were discharged for their sexualities. The other part is introducing legislation today to expunge the criminal records of those who were convicted of having consensual sexual relations with same-sex partners.

“Our laws made private and consensual sex between same-sex partners a criminal offence, leading to the unjust arrest, conviction, and imprisonment of Canadians,” Trudeau continued, “From the 1950s to the early 1990s, the government of Canada exercised its authority in a cruel and unjust manner, undertaking a campaign of oppression against members, and suspected members, of the LGBT communities.”

The newly proposed Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act (or Bill C-66) will not only allow for people to apply to have their criminal records expunged, but will also allow the family members of deceased persons to apply for the expungement on their behalf. According to the Ministry of Public Safety, there are 9,000 records of convictions of “gross indecency, buggery and anal intercourse” but only those that can be proven to be consensual will be removed.

The response from members of the LGBTQ community are mostly that this apology should have been given sooner and that it may offer some relief. Martine Roy was discharged from the Canadian military at 20 years old for “sexual deviation” after a long interrogation process by military police. She thinks that this apology will help Canada reconcile with a part of its dark past.

“It is a historic moment,” she told Your Morning, “It’s 33 years I’ve been waiting for this and I’m not alone. This really changed the course of my life and I think today will change it again. I think it will help to ease the pain of what happened and it will, I think, put at ease something that we did. It was a very dark era for Canada and I think this will help to change things.”

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