Feds table bill to expunge 'unjust' convictions of LGBTQ Canadians
Published Tuesday, November 28, 2017 10:44AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 28, 2017 4:24PM EST
OTTAWA – Ahead of today’s historic apology, the federal government has tabled a bill to expunge “unjust” convictions from the criminal records of Canadians who were charged for having consensual same sex relationships.
The bill provides for the permanent destruction of records of convictions involving consensual sexual activity with same-sex partners. For deceased people, the family can apply for the expungement.
Under Bill C-66 applicants will need to provide evidence that their conviction was regarding consensual activity related to charges of gross indecency, buggery, and anal intercourse.
The proposed legislation also includes the expungement of records of offences under the National Defence Act.
The bill, “An Act to establish a procedure for expunging certain historically unjust convictions,” makes no mention of compensation or redress.
Once the bill passes, people will be able to apply, free of charge, through the Parole Board of Canada.
On Tuesday afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to make an historic apology in the House of Commons to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited people Canadians who were persecuted by the government.
Between the 1950s and 1990s, the Canadian government interrogated and fired or demoted thousands of members of the military, RCMP, and public service for their sexual orientation. Before the law changed in 1969, thousands of Canadians were convicted for same-sex acts, which were illegal.
Sources say the federal government will be offering up to $145 million in compensation for former federal workers and military members who had their careers destroyed as part of what’s been come to known as the “gay purge.” The money will be part of a class-action lawsuit settlement.
'A very dark era for Canada'
Martine Roy was 20 when she was brought in to an interrogation room, asked questions that were completely irrelevant to her skills as a military member, and made to admit she is lesbian.
"I told them that I was confused and I was really sorry that I made a mistake, I won’t do it again," Roy recalled in an interview on CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday. "I was sure that I was safe by being honest."
She was dishonorably discharged from her job, as a medical assistant with the Canadian Armed Forces, shortly after starting her career.
Since then Roy says she has been waiting 33 years to receive a formal apology from the federal government, and today she and thousands of others are set to receive exactly that.
"It is a historic moment… This really changed the course of my life and I think today it will change it again. I think it will help to ease the pain of what happened," Roy said.
A number of victims of the institutional discrimination, as well as stakeholders and top military officials, are expected to be in attendance for the formal apology.
"It will, I think, put at ease something that we did that was a very dark era for Canada and I think this will help to change things," Roy said.
Chief of Defence Staff apologizes
In a message sent to all members of the Canadian Armed Forces Tuesday, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance apologized for the Canadian military’s past actions towards members of the LGBTQ community.
“We spied on, interrogated, and criminally pursued our own people. We pitted friends against each other to protect their own careers. We stripped away their dignity before we ruined their livelihood,” Vance said in the message.
Connected to the federal apology, the rainbow-hued pride flag is being flown in from the Armouries and at the Department of National Defence headquarters in Ottawa.
“I am deeply sorry to all of you… You showed us honour and dedication, and we showed you the door. No apology or compensation can ever change the shameful way we instilled fear into your lives and took away your career.”
With files from CTV News' Michel Boyer and Mercedes Stephenson