Tag Archives: Everett Klippert

Our History with the Police

This week’s announcement by Calgary Pride, editing the presence of the Calgary Police in the Pride Parade, has stirred deep waters. Calgary’s LGBTQ community has a decidedly conflicted history with the city’s police: ignoring that fact or conflating the past with the present is equally unhelpful. Mayor Nenshi says: “Blaming current people for historical oppression would be like saying: ‘previous mayors of Calgary have refused to proclaim Pride Week, therefore the current mayor of Calgary isn’t invited to the parade.’ I have a challenge with that.”

Yet, as an analogy of the situation, his response is far too superficial.

Redistribution of power is the existential issue of our generation. At every level in society, we see social justice combating social conservatism. There has been a lot of fallout. Although Canada seems to be managing this redistribution slightly better than other places, dealing with atonement, integration and resistance to change has been a weary-making struggle for everyone.

One of the strategies in progressing forward is to know our history and to look at it unflinchingly.

Fact: We were surveilled and incarcerated in large numbers, particularly in the period between World War II and 1969. In 1967, Everett Klippert, a Calgary bus driver received a life sentence just for being gay which triggered a change in the laws around the criminalization of homosexuality in 1969. Calgary leaders, including our politicians, were vehemently opposed to decriminalization. Then police chief Ken McIver described homosexuality as a “horrible, vicious and terrible thing. We do not need this in our country.”

Ken McIver 1968

Police Chief Ken McIver examines police graduates in January 1968: Source Glenbow Archives.

Fact: Calgary Police tracked gay student activists in the 70s, asking the University of Calgary for their records (the University courageously refused), showing up at their apartments and purposefully intimidating them.

Fact: Calgary Police routinely harassed gay men in Central Memorial Park in the 70s and 80s and would sometimes incarcerate them overnight without cause. This was not challenged until 1981 when gay University of Calgary Law Student, Henry Berg, filed a formal complaint against Calgary Police regarding abuse of police power after he spent a night in the drunk tank when he was not inebriated.

Fact: I (Kevin), personally, was stopped by a Calgary Police Officer in the summer of 1996 walking home after work in the late afternoon.  The male officer kept me for 15 minutes, and it became evident during his interrogation that the only reason I had been targeted was for my sexual orientation which he identified by the “funny way I was walking.” Although defiant at the time, I regrettably never pursued a complaint.

Fact: Goliath’s, a gay bathhouse in Calgary was raided for being a common bawdy house in 2002 with both found-ins and operators charged. The Crown eventually stayed the charges citing changed community standards.

Notwithstanding these facts, the Calgary Police have made great strides in transforming their culture concerning sexual and gender diversity – which could not have been easy. The first gay/police liaison committee began in the early 80s and was not a sincere effort but a cynical, placating move. However, over time, the two historically opposing communities built more trust. The police were actively trying to prevent hate crimes against our community throughout the 90s. Now they have diversity officers and actively try to recruit LGBTQ individuals to their ranks. Most recently they courageously opened their archives to the Calgary Gay History Project. It was courageous because a peek in their closet wasn’t pretty.

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A visit to the Calgary Police Archives with the Pride Flag flying at half mast for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shootings in Orlando, Florida.

We in minority communities have some unattractive things in our closets too. But I firmly believe that we need to seek and share empowerment as we are able. I am a fan of creating braver spaces, as opposed to safer spaces. The viral video of Michelle Obama’s 2016 university commencement address, “Living Without Privilege Makes You Stronger” resonated forcefully with me.

If I had to decide whether Calgary Police could march in the Pride Parade in full uniform this year, I would not know what to do.  I understand and sympathize with the arguments from both sides. I have met Calgary Police officers who are decent people and great allies.

Intellectually, I want to trust police: there are many good reasons to do so, but emotionally – because of my lived experiences – I cannot say that I do. My deepest reflex is to not trust them.

Can my feelings change?  I am not sure.  I earnestly hope so.

{KA}

 

 

Where are Canada’s Gay Pardons?

Good news came out of the United Kingdom this week as Turing’s law received royal assent. It was named after the now famous mathematician Alan Turing, who broke the German Enigma codes in World War II. He sadly committed suicide at the age of 41 after being convicted of gross indecency – the charge under which homosexuals were prosecuted in both the UK and Canada.

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Alan Turing. Photo: Sherborne school/AFP/Getty from The Guardian Jan 31, 2017.

Although Turing received a royal pardon in 2013, this bill extends to thousands of men formerly convicted of homosexual offences. They have been posthumously pardoned under a new law. Most of these men are dead now, but the UK gay community is heralding it as a significant victory. It also has been declared an anodyne to family members and descendants of those convicted.

We have a martyr here in Canada: Everett George Klippert, the Calgary Bus Driver who was unjustly jailed for most of the 1960s for being gay. The Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson revived national interest in Klippert in February 2016, eliciting a pledge from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to grant a posthumous pardon.  In addition, we have our own thousands who were convicted under Canada’s gross indecency laws.

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Everett George Klippert – Family Photo

Edmonton Member of Parliament, Randy Boissonnault, was appointed last fall as special adviser to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 issues, and an apology is part of his mandate. Perhaps they need some inspiration?

In January, Brandon Lewis, UK Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, issued a formal apology on behalf of the government:

I want to take the opportunity to apologise unreservedly, on behalf of the Government, to all those men who will receive a pardon. The legislation under which they were convicted and cautioned was discriminatory and homophobic. I want to make sure that all who were criminalised in this way and had to suffer society’s opprobrium, and the many more who lived in fear of being so criminalised because they were being treated in a very different way from heterosexual couples, actually understand that we offer this full apology. Their treatment was entirely unfair. What happened to these men is a matter of the greatest regret, and it should be so to all of us. I am sure it is to Members across the House. For this, we are today deeply sorry.

{KA}

2016 YYC Gay History Wrap

Today is our last post of 2016 as we devote our final energies of December to completing the Calgary Gay History book project.  Here is a recap of the year.

The three most popular history posts in 2016 were:

#1 Ralph Klein’s Gay Rights Tempest

#2 Klippert back in the news 50 years later

#3 2016 Hero Awards – Nancy & Richard

We recently passed the 50,000 person odometer mark on the history website and have 966 followers, hundreds of whom have signed up for our weekly email.

Calgarian Everett Klippert, who was jailed in the 1960s for being gay, was back in the news in February thanks to the journalistic efforts of the Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has subsequently promised a posthumous pardon. The Calgary Gay History Project was then invited to write a feature on Klippert for the Canadian Encyclopedia.

Over 1000 Calgarians gathered in memory of the victims of the Orlando shooting at the Jack Singer Concert Hall.

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The Calgary Police opened up their archives to the history project.

Calgary City Councillor Evan Woolley spearheaded the creation of a LGBTQ Legacy Committee to develop a plan for a history memorial that recognizes our contributions to the city.

We made historical reproductions of Pride buttons from previous decades that we gave away for free (and quickly ran out of) at Calgary’s Pride Festival.

Finally, we are looking forward to making more history in 2017.  So to all of our readers, we send you our warmest wishes for a happy New Year.

{KA}