On March 1, 2016 The Globe and Mail reported: The half-dozen openly homosexual members of the 42nd Parliament are quietly celebrating the Trudeau government’s plans to pardon thousands of men who were convicted of sex crimes simply because they were gay.
“It’s awesome,” said Sheri Benson, the newly elected NDP MP for Saskatoon West. The move, she said in an interview, reminds those campaigning for the rights of sexual minorities, “that we’re here because of the sacrifices of other people.”
It is also causing the members to reflect on how swiftly Canadian society has moved from criminal sanctions against homosexuality to moral condemnation to acceptance. For these MPs, it’s personal.
“I hit the floor,” said St. John’s South-Mount Pearl MP Seamus O’Regan Tuesday when he heard of the planned pardons. “What hits you is that within your lifetime this has happened.” Mr. O’Regan and his husband, Steve Doussis, were married six years ago, 41 years after homosexual acts ceased to be a felony.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to review, with the intent of pardoning, an estimated 6,000 homosexual men who were convicted of gross indecency or buggery followed on The Globe and Mail’s investigation of the circumstances surrounding the imprisonment of Everett Klippert. In 1966, Mr. Klippert was designated a dangerous sexual offender – effectively a life sentence – because he refused to stop having sex with men. He was released in 1971, after spending a total of a decade behind bars.
The controversy surrounding his sentence prompted Pierre Trudeau to introduce legislation decriminalizing homosexual acts in private between two adults, which became law in 1969. Now his son has decided to pardon Mr. Klippert, who died in 1996, and to order the review.
Digging up all this ancient history painfully reminds older members of the gay and lesbian community how difficult it was, until relatively recently, to openly express their sexuality. After all, Chief Justice John Cartwright, while vigorously dissenting against the 1967 Supreme Court ruling that upheld Mr. Klippert’s designation as a dangerous sexual offender, prefaced his remarks with: “However loathsome conduct of the sort mentioned may appear to all normal persons…” In 1968, NDP Leader Tommy Douglas described homosexuality as “a mental illness … a psychiatric condition,” which at the time was considered progressive.