Tag Archives: Justin Trudeau

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}

Gay Age of Consent in Canada

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this fall contemplates lowering the age of consent for anal sex (read: gay sex) from 18 to 16, matching that of heterosexuals, it is timely to reflect on where we have come from, to get here.

Calgarian, Everett Klippert‘s sensational Supreme Court case in 1967, paved the way for decriminalizing homosexuality for two consenting adults aged 21 years or older. The law came into effect in the summer of 1969.

On January 15th, 1981 the Calgary Herald reported on then Federal Justice Minister Jean Chretien’s bill to reduce the age of consent for homosexual acts from 21 to 18, as well as make legal “daisy chain”sex, or sex with more than one consenting adult.

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February 1981 Issue: Legal at 18? Cover Story

The Body Politic, Canada’s gay liberation newspaper soon cheekily reported: “Gay sex, orgies to be legal at 18 if Criminal Code changes pass.” Unfortunately the Bill never makes it through and was withdrawn by Chretien in 1982 due to organized pressure from police chiefs, social conservatives and an organized letter writing campaign from the 10,000-member strong, US-based, Family and Freedom Foundation.

The age of consent for gay sex was eventually dropped to 18 in 1987, and came into effect in 1988 as did sex with more than one consenting adult (not in public). Several legal minds noted that the difference in ages of consent between anal and vaginal sex (then aged 14) was discriminatory. The Justice Minister at the time, Raymond Hnatyshyn, argued AIDS prevention was one of the justifications for the age difference in consent.

In 1995, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling that Canada’s higher age of consent for anal sex unconstitutionally discriminated against gay men and violated the Canadian Charter of Rights. Quebec, then Alberta, then BC, then Nova Scotia courts made similar rulings; the Federal Government contemplated appealing those decisions but never did. Consequently, although it is a theoretical crime for two 17-year olds to engage in anal sex, law enforcement currently chooses not to police it.

Trudeau’s lowering the age of consent for gay sex is part of a larger apology to the LGBTQ community for historic wrongs that Canada’s state institutions inflicted upon us in previous decades. It also aligns the Federal criminal code with the Provincial Court rulings of the past 20 years. Although changing the law to match the enforcement does not seem very dramatic, a new generation of social conservatives are sounding the alarm and using an old trope – gay panic  – as a fundraising tool.

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A reworked Pride Toronto Promo Image of the Prime Minister on the evangelical website Canadianvalues.ca {they also oppose Trans public washroom usage!}

Decidedly not panicked here, we at the Calgary Gay History Project are looking forward to the changes.

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The UK also had issues around double standards in the 1980s….

{KA}