Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood in the House of Commons yesterday afternoon and rightfully apologized for decades of government-sanctioned discrimination against members of the LGBTQ2 community during the so-called “gay purge” that began as far back as the 1940s.
Saying what resulted was nothing short of a “witch hunt," the prime minister conceded the thinking behind the action was "prejudiced and flawed.”
“Those arrested and charged were purposefully and vindictively shamed," he noted. "Lives were destroyed. And tragically, lives were lost.”
The government also promised to expunge criminal records for people convicted of consensual sexual activity with same-sex partners, as well as earmarked $110 million to compensate those who careers in the military or other federal agencies were sidelined or terminated.
Another $15 million is being devoted for projects that will “promote collective reconciliation and remembrance,” including museum exhibits and a national monument.
As well, Ottawa is putting $250,000 toward community projects to combat homophobia and also plans to commemorate in 2019 the 50th anniversary of the federal decriminalization of homosexual acts.
Still, it's evident Canadians remain divided on this issue. While Conservative leader Andrew Scheer called the purge a “terrible and unjust moment” in Canada's history, many Conservative MPs did not attend yesterday's formal apology.
In Alberta, for instance, there was a recent controversy over whether parents should be informed if their children were members of a Gay-Straight Alliance at school. Homophobic slurs and bullying, meanwhile, remain commonplace right across the country—more than a decade after same-sex marriage was legally recognized in Canada.
While yesterday's apology was long overdue, we have a long way to go to eliminate homophobia once and for all.
Why that is proving so difficult is hard to grasp. As Mr. Scheer put it, “All human beings have the same value and dignity, [and] deserve the same respect.”
It really is that simple, no matter your personal beliefs.