Tag Archives: Gay history

An ode to one particular mother

{We want to give a shout out to the tremendous queer culture coming to Calgary this month: the Unison LGBTQ2 Choir Festival, May 18-21; and Fairy Tales “Twenty,” May 25 – June 2!}

When we started the Calgary Gay History Project in 2012, we had no idea the journey it would take us on. Currently, we are working with filmmaker Laura O’Grady from Spotlight Productions on a short film about the life of Everett Klippert. This week, we travelled with cinematographer Patrick McLaughlin, to Everett’s niece Katherine’s farm, three hours from Calgary. Everett requested to be buried here next to his beloved sister Leah (also Katherine’s mom): stalwart defender of Everett in his protracted tangle with the Canadian state.

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Everett Klippert’s headstone. He is buried next to his sister Leah and brother-in-law David.

It was Leah, a legal secretary in Calgary, who fought Everett’s unjust incarceration and categorization as a dangerous sexual offender.

It was Leah, who gathered the resources and expertise to challenge court decisions, pushing Klippert’s case forward to the Supreme Court.

It was Leah, who travelled to the Northwest Territories to support him at trial, and who visited him regularly in the Prince Albert Penitentiary.

It was Leah, 20 years older than Everett, who acted as a mother to Everett when they lost their mother to kidney disease in 1933. Everett was then six years old.

So on this Mother’s Day Weekend, we would propose a toast to Leah, mother to many, and mother to a better world for Canada’s LGBTQ2 community.

Klippert Family Photos 1940s

Klippert family photo: Front row: Merton Klippert (Everett’s father), Everett and Leah. Back row: Everett’s seven older brothers!

{KA}

“Sorry,” the word we are waiting for….

{Firstly a plug for Tereasa Maillie from the Calgary Gay History Project. She is reading from her new work of personal fiction, Just A Walk, Friday, Nov. 24th from 5-7 PM at Loft 112. – Kevin}

Justin Trudeau announced recently that Canada’s historic apology to the LGBTQ2 community had been scheduled. He will deliver it on Tuesday, November 28th, 2017 in the House of Commons. Research the Calgary Gay History Project amassed has been used by many authors in the lead up to this date, and we are grateful to have been a resource for this moment of national reflection and remorse.

One key event leading up to this apology was John Ibbitson’s Globe and Mail feature on Everett Klippert in February 2016. He specifically asked the Prime Minister’s Office for a posthumous pardon in advance of the article being published and got a surprise commitment to do so.

EGALE later launched in June 2016 the comprehensive Just Society Report on Canada’s criminal justice system providing detailed recommendations on provisions in the Criminal Code that have a discriminatory effect on LGBTQ2SI Canadians.

In November 2016 openly gay Member of Parliament (MP) Randy Boissonnault was named special advisor on LGBTQ2 issues to the Prime Minister. The advisor’s mandate includes rights protections as well as addressing both present and historical discrimination

The Government formed an apology advisory committee under MP Boissonnault which consulted broadly across the country.

The guiding questions for the apology were:

  1. From your perspective, why should the Government of Canada apologize to LGBTQ2 Canadians?
  2. Are there specific examples of wrongs that you feel should be addressed?
  3. What actions can the Government undertake in order to promote awareness of the issues LGBTQ2 people have faced and foster understanding going forward?
  4. What can the Government do to demonstrate ongoing commitment to promoting equality for LGBTQ2 people?

The apology input process was also non-partisan. Calgary MP Michelle Rempel participated, soliciting answers to these questions directly from the Calgary Gay History Project. We shared our preoccupation with the sad story of former Calgary bus driver Everett Klippert (see: Klippert month) and answered all of the guiding questions.

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Klippert Family Photo

The University of Toronto’s Centre for Ethics recently hosted a symposium on the ethics of apologies and solicited some thought-provoking papers on Canada’s gay apology. Academic Steven Maynard challenges homonationalism and outlines our messy gay history in Canada and the problems in sanitizing our queer past. Lawyer Douglas Elliot, who also was a lead author in the Just Society Report, argues there are more compelling reasons to apologize than not, with much potential social good arising out of the Prime Minister’s efforts.

Locally the same thoughtfulness is fueling the YYC Legacy Project. How will we acknowledge and commemorate our LGBTQ2 history here in Calgary? Stay tuned.

In the meantime, we will be watching the apology with great anticipation next Tuesday.

{KA}

 

Klippert Month – Week 3

Everett Klippert was born in Kindersley, Saskatchewan in 1926, the youngest of nine siblings. His family relocated to Calgary when he was just 2 years old. Sadly, Everett’s mother died in May 1933 from kidney disease.

Everett’s 20-year older sister Leah took it upon herself to look after her eight younger brothers. The family was evangelical Baptist, and Leah made sure that the family regularly attended services at the Crescent Heights Baptist Church. There were so many brothers in the Klippert family that they were able to form their own baseball team with their father, called “the Klippert Nine,” which was once featured in the Calgary Herald.

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Everett (middle back row) with his father and brothers: The Klippert Nine. Source: Klippert Family, Photographer Lorne Burkell.

Everett’s siblings were discomforted by the police’s revelation of his homosexuality, but they stood by him – particularly Leah – throughout his drawn-out troubles with the state.

In 1960, after Everett’s first arrest, the Klippert family paid $9000 in bail: an equivalent of $72,000 in today’s dollars. For the trial, the family also procured a supportive reference letter from their Church Reverend, J. E. Harris. Although found guilty and incarcerated in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Everett’s siblings made efforts to visit him in the Penitentiary.

Leah worked as a legal secretary in the offices of J. D. Salmon, Solicitor for the City of Calgary. It was she who kept writing Everett’s legal correspondence, engaging lawyers, and appealing his court verdicts as unjust: ultimately pushing his case to the Supreme Court. In early 1967, she along with her brother Howard trekked to the Court of Appeal Case in the Northwest Territories.

Howard Klippert was brought forward as a witness for the defence. In the trial, he said: “to the best of my knowledge Everett has been well liked and well received with my friends and family. He has always been noted for his gentleness and willingness to help others. I have never known him to be violent – never. On many occasions when going to school together, I have had to protect him from others who would start a fight with him.”

Everett would not be released from jail until 1971 and went to live with his brother William in Calgary. Phyllis, Everett’s sister-in-law, said: “He was the funniest person you ever met. He lived with us for 17 years. When he was around, there wasn’t any dark cloud anywhere. He was part of our family for years.” Despite his sunny character, she added that his years in jail had left Everett feeling stalked, and embittered.

Walter Klippert said he and his brothers never talked about their youngest sibling being gay, but “we knew he was out with boys a lot. See, he was a transit driver for the city. He was a popular driver, very happy go lucky. He was really nice to everybody, anybody.”

Eventually, Everett would move to Edmonton and marry his good friend Dorothy at age 57 (she was 65). He reportedly was happy and content in his final years of life, but both he and his family did not talk about the past. He died in 1996 at age 69.

Documentary filmmakers in 2001 interviewed several members of the Klippert family, including Everett’s widow. Most were resistant to the idea of a film. Dorothy said: “I don’t think it is right to bring up the past when you have no concrete way of knowing how he felt about it.”

Everett was buried next to his sister Leah at her daughter’s farm. While she was alive, Leah’s attitude was that she loved Everett, full stop. How could the fact that he was gay, ever change that?

{KA}