The Canadian Government is ready to pay over $85 million in compensation to victims of a so-called “gay purge” which happened between 1962 and 1996. Additionally, legislation to expunge “unjust convictions” records, of people charged under laws that criminalized homosexuality, was also introduced.
Tuesday's announcement was accompanied by an apology from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the victims of the LGBT community. A maximum award of CDN$150,000 can be claimed by individuals who were violated by the program, while a portion of the overall compensation fund will be set aside to memorialize victims who are no longer alive.
“Canada’s role in the systemic oppression, criminalization, and violence” against sexual minorities, the PM said, “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.”
The over three-decades-long government-authorized discrimination program, which came to an end in the 1990s, resulted in thousands of jobs lost based on sexual orientation. At one point the number of people under investigation totaled 9,000.
“This is the devastating story of people who were branded criminals by the government – people who lost their livelihoods, and in some cases, their lives,” Trudeau said.
“These aren’t distant practices of governments long forgotten. This happened systematically, in Canada, with a timeline more recent than any of us would like to admit."
The policy also affected people in the military, public service and Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
In the 1950s, a special unit of the Mounties launched a widescale campaign to remove gay and lesbian members of the military and other government institutions who were deemed susceptible to Soviet Union blackmail.
The LGBT dragnet incorporated tactics such as the authorities conducting surveillance, making threats and developing a “fruit machine” to detect homosexuality. Gay women were raped, in some instances, and told it was to correct their sexual orientation, lawyers representing plaintiffs shared. Many victims committed suicide under the weight of the program.
“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 said to a standing ovation.
“For state-sponsored, systemic oppression and rejection, we are sorry.”
Trudeau further added that “It is my hope that in talking about these injustices, vowing to never repeat them, and acting to right these wrongs, we can begin to heal.”
R. Douglas Elliott, who serves as the head litigator for the plaintiffs, said: “It’s something we can be extremely proud of in Canada.”
He added: “At a time when America is going backward and trying to reintroduce discrimination, we are moving forward and facing this historic injustice, making reparations to the victims and an unshakable commitment that this discrimination will never be repeated.”