Justin Trudeau Made A Historic Apology to Canada's LGBTQ Community & The Rest Of The World Better Be Paying Attention

On Tuesday afternoon, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered an apology in the House of Commons to the Canadian lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit (LGBTQ2) community.

“Today, we offer a long overdue apology to all those whom we, the Government of Canada, wronged. We are sorry,” said Trudeau. “We hope by acknowledging our failings we can make the crucial progress LGBTQ2 people in Canada deserve. We will continue to support each other in our fight for equality because we know that Canada gets stronger every single day that we choose to embrace diversity.”

Trudeau acknowledged that this is a hugely “overlooked part of Canada’s history,” and that it is “finally time to talk about Canada’s role in the systematic oppression, criminalization and violence against the [LGBTQ2] communities.”

The apology coincides with the introduction of legislation to delete criminal records of individuals convicted of having consensual same-sex activity. Although Canadian legislature decriminalized homosexuality in 1969, records of these convictions remain in public record. Along with the initiative to delete the criminal records is an agreement in a class-action lawsuit to pay out 110 million Canadian dollars to former civil servants and military personnel who lost their jobs because of sexual orientation.  Canada had a ban on lesbian and gay military service that lasted until 1992.

The apology was written by an advisory committee with both representatives from the Canadian government and LGBTQ advocacy organizations. Helen Kennedy, Executive Director of one of such organizations, Eagle Canada Human Rights Trust, said the apology has been a long time on the horizon.

“This is a long-awaited moment and a very emotional moment, to be honest. For the government to recognize the damage that it caused, the harm that it caused, to thousands and thousands of Canadians is a historic moment for our communities,” said Kennedy, before acknowledging the work still to be done. “There is still a lot of work to be done in terms of the systemic changes… We have very high rates of LGBTQ2 youth homelessness, housing is a big issue, unemployment, access to health care… We have a blood ban in effect for men who have sex with men.”

Despite the problems the LGBTQ2 community faces, Kennedy sees the apology as a beginning rather than an ending, “The apology is the first step in healing.”

This is a huge step forward for member of the LGBTQ2 community, and I can only hope that other countries will follow in Canada’s footsteps when it comes to policies toward the LGBTQ2 community.