Humber student Beau Deguire appreciated the apology Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave to the Canadian LGBTQ2 community Nov. 28.
Trudeau teared up when he offered the apology for decades of discrimination that “legitimized hatred and violence and brought shame to those targeted.”
Trudeau said in a much-anticipated statement to the House of Commons the state destroyed people’s lives through an orchestrated culture of stigma and fear perpetuated by their own government.
“It is our collective shame that you were so mistreated and it is our collective shame that this apology took so long,” Trudeau said. “Many who suffered are no longer alive to hear these words, and for that, we are truly sorry.”
Deguire, who also works at the LGBTQ+ Resource Centre, is relieved to have the prime minister addressing an issue that is so dear to him.
“We finally have someone who’s addressing these issues by talking, apologizing and doing something about it today,” Deguire said. “Personally, I’m more confident in who I am and I don’t have to fear as much as I would’ve had to back then.”
Governments of the day discriminated against thousands of workers in the Canadian military and public service for decades.
“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,” he said.
“You were not bad soldiers, sailors, airmen and women,” Trudeau said. “You were not predators and you were not criminals. You were professionals. You were patriots. and above all, you are innocent. For all your suffering, you deserve justice and you deserve peace.”
The government has also set aside over $100 million to Canadians whose careers were forced to end or put on hold due to their sexuality.
Federal workers were fired because it was felt that their sexuality posed a “national security” threat. Pierre Trudeau, who was Justice Minister at the time, introduced the reforms to the Criminal Code that decriminalized homosexual acts in 1967.
Humber graduate and LGBTQ+ activist Christopher Karas was in attendance when Trudeau made his apology.
“People were crying because this was an intimate moment for a lot of folks who were in the military and the public service who were apologized to,” Karas said.
Karas is currently challenging Canadian Blood Services’ policy on gay men donating blood at the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Health Canada allowed Canadian Blood Services to change in 2016 the donation ineligibility period for men who have sex with men from five years to one.
He added he was mostly disappointed, saying Trudeau didn’t go far enough. Karas said he thinks Trudeau should’ve mentioned Canada is still not a welcoming country for LGBTQ2 people.
With files from Daniel Caudle and Omar Jaber.