Justin Trudeau delivers historic formal apology for Canada's past LGBT purge

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      Today (November 28), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered an apology for a discriminatory and unjust campaign by the federal government against LGBT people that lasted for decades.

      The apology was specifically addressed victims what is referred to as the Gay Purge. It was a campaign that began in the 1950s and continued until the 1990s in which the Canadian government targeted civil servants believed to be homosexual, bisexual, or transgender.

      Thousands of Canadians who were in the public service, military, and RCMP were fired, discharged, or intimidated into leaving their jobs due to what Trudeau called "nothing short of a witch hunt".

      Suspected individuals were subjected to surveillance, interrogations, polygraph tests, or evaluations by a questionable device called the "fruit machine" (which measured the physical responses of subjects as they were forced to look at pornography), as well as sexual assault and blackmail.

      Trudeau noted how government laws and policies enforced inequality and "legitimized hatred and violence and brought shame to those targeted."

      "The government of Canada exercised its authority in a cruel and unjust manner," Trudeau stated in the House of Commons in Ottawa. "It is with shame and sorrow and deep regret for the things we have done that I stand here today and say, 'We were wrong. We apologize. I am sorry. We are sorry.' "

      Trudeau, who was brought to tears by the apology, said that he hoped the day would serve as a "turning point" and asked Canadians to commit to ending discrimination against LGBT people, who continue to face higher rates of aggression, violence, mental-health issues, and homelessness.

      In addition to the formal apology, which received a standing ovation, the federal government will offer $110 million in compensation to individuals involved with a class-action lawsuit in response to the purge.

      An additional $15 million will be devoted to historical reconciliation, education, and memorialization efforts. 

      The RCMP and National Defence will also launch awareness and support programs that will include a "positive space" initiative in the military for support and networking.

      Earlier today, the government also introduced legislation to expunge the criminal records of anyone convicted of consensual sexual activity with a same-sex partner.

      It wasn't until 1969 when Justin's father, then–Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, decriminalized same-sex sexual activity.

      B.C. Premier John Horgan issued a statement in response to Trudeau's apology.

      "Words cannot reverse Canada's shameful treatment of LGBTQ2S+ people," Horgan said in a news release. "But they can help heal the wounds left behind by the harmful laws and policies of the past….While Canada has been making strides since the 1960s to offer LGBTQ2S+ people full and equal protection in the law, more must be done to make sure everyone is free and unafraid to be who they are."

      Horgan also noted that the province adopted the three-year Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, which was launched in October, to help recruit, develop, and retain a diverse talent pool to better reflect visible minorities, people with disabilities, women, Indigenous people, and LGBT people.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at @StraightLGBT or on Facebook.