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Historic Canadian apology hits close to home

Focusing on the 1950s to 1990s, Trudeau remarked at how those in civil positions were fired or forced into resignation upon admitting they were gay

Today was a landmark moment for the nation’s LGBTQ community as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered an apology to all those affected by decades of what he called "state-sponsored, systematic oppression and rejection."

Speaking to a packed House of Commons, Trudeau shed tears as he described his shame and regret for Canada’s role in the injustice done to civil servants, military members and Canadians who were held as criminals.

"You are professionals. You are patriots. And above all, you are innocent. And for all your suffering, you deserve justice, and you deserve peace," Trudeau said.

"It is our collective shame that you were so mistreated. And it is our collective shame that this apology took so long – many who suffered are no longer alive to hear these words. And for that, we are truly sorry."

Focusing on the 1950s to 1990s, Trudeau remarked at how those in civil positions were fired or forced into resignation upon admitting they were gay.

Unthinkable nowadays, those who were found out to be gay and having consensual sex were charged under the offences of buggery and gross indecency. Prior to the Prime Minister’s apology, the Liberal government announced that it will set aside $100 million to compensate those whose jobs were terminated unjustly, but also announced that they will look to expunge the records of those who were convicted of such crimes. Family members or legal representatives of those who are now deceased can apply for the expungement on behalf of those charged.

The announcement today hit close to home as members of Barrie Pride were on-hand for the monumental event. David Bradbury is the President of the Barrie Pride organization and was on-hand for the apology and says it was a deeply moving moment.

“I was in the gallery and I can tell you, it was a very moving and deeply emotional,” said Bradbury. “I was sitting right behind the Prime Minister and he was constantly grabbing tissues to wipe his eyes. The gallery has a lot of rules, one of which is that you cannot make any noise, but I can say that every time something important happened we all cheered and it was so awesome to share with others. I want to thank MP John Brassard as well because it was his seat I had for it and his office really came through for me and I’m very grateful for that because this was deeply important for me to be a part of.”

"Jeremy Dias of the Canadian Centre for Gender Sexual Diversity and Barrie Pride's grand marshal this year, helped get us to Ottawa and in the place we needed to be for this historic event." 

Bradbury was very touched by a statement that was made in the House that while the apologies are needed, what’s needed most is for the transgressions to stop and the negative acts to cease.

“Here’s a leader that is using the correct terminology in the House of Commons, something that those before us would never have dreamed of hearing,” said Bradbury. “You would never see that south of the border and we are very lucky to have a leader who would be so in tune with all of our needs.”

Co-Chair of Barrie Pride Shelly Skinner was also with Bradbury in Ottawa for the occasion but was in the Cartier Drill House watching on a screen with members of the Liberal party and special guests.

Skinner said that the room was emotional during the apology but upbeat afterwards with many grateful it happened. While she is glad to see all of Canada’s parties get behind the apology and the announcement that the government is investing $250,000 into community projects to help end homophobia and help those who deeply affected by it, Skinner feels it may take more than that number to help.

“This was long overdue, long overdue but it is the first step and we accept the apology,” said Skinner. “As for the $250,000 I feel there needs to be millions of dollars given back and I would personally like to see it helping the smaller communities and towns. There is discrimination everywhere, but I would suggest that we in smaller towns are seeing it in higher numbers and a higher rate. We need to see real change and we need it in our smaller towns.”