Mr. Speaker, one of the greatest choices a person can make in their life is the choice to serve their fellow citizens. Maybe it is in government, in the military, or in a police force. In whatever capacity one serves, dedicating your life to making Canada, and indeed the world, a better place is a calling of the highest order. Imagine, if you will, being told that the very country you had willingly laid down your life to defend does not want you, does not accept you, sees you as defective, sees you as a threat to our national security, not because you cannot do the job or because you lack patriotism or courage, but because of who you are as a person, and because of who your sexual partners are. Imagine being subjected to laws, policies, and hiring practices that label you as “different”, as “less than”. Imagine having to fight over and over again for the basic rights that your peers enjoy. Imagine being criminalized for who you are.
This is the truth for many of the Canadians present in the gallery today, and many more listening across the country. This is the devastating story of people who were branded as criminals by the government, people who lost their livelihoods, and in some cases their lives. These are not the distant practices of governments long forgotten. This happened systematically in Canada, with a timeline more recent than any of us would like to admit.
Today we acknowledge an often overlooked part of Canada's history. Today we finally talk about Canada's role in the systemic oppression, criminalization, and violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit communities. 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.
Today, we acknowledge an often overlooked part of Canada's history. Today, we finally talk about Canada's role in the systemic oppression, criminalization, and violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit communities. 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.
Since arriving on these shores, settlers to this land brought with them foreign standards of right and wrong, of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, and of suitable and unsuitable partnerships. They brought rigid gender norms, norms that manifested in homophobia and transphobia, norms that saw the near-destruction of indigenous LGBTQ and two-spirit identities. People who were once revered for their identities found themselves shamed for who they were. They were rejected and left vulnerable to violence.
Discrimination against LGBTQ2 communities was quickly codified in criminal offences like buggery, gross indecency, and bawdy house provisions. Bath houses were raided. People were entrapped by police. Our laws bolstered and emboldened those who wanted to attack non-conforming sexual desire. Our laws made private and consensual sex between same-sex partners a criminal offence, leading to the unjust arrest, conviction, and imprisonment of Canadians.
This criminalization would have lasting impacts for things like employment, volunteering, and travel. Those arrested and charged were purposefully and vindictively shamed. Their names appeared in newspapers in order to humiliate them and their families. Lives were destroyed, and tragically, lives were lost.
This did not end in 1969 with the partial decriminalization of homosexual sex. Up until 1988, a twenty-year-old gay man who had sex with another man could still be convicted of a crime.
The imprisonment and criminalization of LGBTQ2 individuals was not the end of it. Other methods of oppression have been rampant throughout our society for generations. Homophobia during the time of the AIDS crisis generated hysteria and propagated fear of gay men.
Books and magazines were stopped at the border under the guise of obscenity offences and customs regulations, the content, words, and images deemed unacceptable. LGBTQ2 families have had to fight their own government for the right to benefits and the freedom to marry, often at great personal cost.
Over our history, laws and policies enacted by the government led to the legitimization of much more than inequality. They legitimized hatred and violence and brought shame to those targeted.
While we may view modern Canada as a forward-thinking, progressive nation, we cannot forget our past. The state orchestrated a culture of stigma and fear around LGBTQ2 communities and in doing so destroyed people's lives.
A purge that lasted decades will forever remain a tragic act of discrimination, suffered by Canadian citizens at the hands of their own government. From the 1950s to the early 1990s, the Government of Canada exercised its authority in a cruel and unjust manner, undertaking a campaign of oppression against members and suspected members of the LGBTQ2 community. The goal was to identify these workers throughout the public service, including the foreign service, the military, and the RCMP, and persecute them. The thinking of the day was that all non-heterosexual Canadians would automatically be at increased risk of blackmail by our adversaries due to what was called “character weakness”. This thinking was prejudiced and flawed.
Sadly, what resulted was nothing short of a witch hunt. The public service, the military, and the RCMP spied on their own people inside and outside of workplaces. During this time, the federal government even dedicated funding to an absurd device known as the “fruit machine”, a failed technology that was supposed to measure homosexual attraction. Canadians were monitored for anything that could be construed as homosexual behaviour, with community groups, bars, parks, and even people's homes under constant watch.
When the government felt that enough evidence had accumulated, some suspects were taken to secret locations in the dark of night to be interrogated. They were asked invasive questions about their relationships and sexual preferences. Hooked up to polygraph machines, these law-abiding public servants had the most intimate details of their lives cut open.
Women and men were abused by their superiors and asked demeaning, probing questions about their sex lives. Some were sexually assaulted.
Those who admitted they were gay were fired, discharged, or intimidated into resignation. They lost their dignity and their careers, and had their dreams and indeed their lives shattered.
Many were blackmailed to report their peers, forced to turn against their friends and colleagues. Some swore they would end their relationships if they could keep their jobs. Pushed deeper into the closet, they lost partners, friends, and dignity. Those who did not lose their jobs were demoted, had security clearances revoked, and were passed over for promotions.
Under the harsh glare of the spotlight, people were forced to make an impossible choice: their career or their identity. The very thing that Canadian officials feared, blackmail of LGBTQ2 employees, was happening. However, it was not at the hands of our adversaries. It was at the hands of our own government. The number one job of any government is to keep its citizens safe, and on this we have failed LGBTQ2 communities and individuals time and time again.
It is with shame, 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.
For state-sponsored systemic oppression and rejection, we are sorry. For suppressing two-spirit indigenous values and beliefs, we are sorry. For abusing the power of the law and making criminals of citizens, we are sorry.
For government censorship and constant attempts to undermine your community-building, for denying you equality and forcing you to constantly fight for this equality, often at great cost, for forcing you to live closeted lives, for rendering you invisible, and for making you feel ashamed, we are deeply sorry. We were so very wrong.
To all the LGBTQ2 people across the country, whom we have harmed in countless ways, we are sorry.
To those who were left broken by a prejudiced system, and to those who took their own lives, we have failed you.
For stripping you of your dignity, for robbing you of your potential, for treating you as though you were dangerous, indecent, and flawed, we are sorry.
To the victims of the purge who were surveilled, interrogated, and abused, who were forced to turn on their friends and colleagues, who lost wages, lost health, and lost loved ones, we betrayed you. We are so sorry.
To those who were fired, to those who resigned, to those who stayed at a great personal and professional cost, to those who wanted to serve but never got the chance because of who you are, you should have been permitted to serve your country, but you were stripped of that option. We are sorry; we were wrong.
Indeed, all Canadians missed out on important contributions you could have and would have made to our society. You were not bad soldiers, sailors, or airmen and airwomen. You were not predators. You were not criminals. You served your country with integrity and courage. You are professionals. You are patriots. Above all, you are innocent. For all your suffering, you deserve justice and you deserve peace.
It is our collective shame that you were so mistreated. 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.
To the partners, families, and friends of the people we harmed, for upending your lives and for causing you such irreparable pain and grief, we are sorry.
As we apologize for our painful mistakes, we must also say thank you to those who spoke up.
To those who pushed back when it was unpopular and even dangerous to do so, to people from across the country, from all walks of life, and of all political stripes, we stand here today in awe of your courage, and we thank you.
We also thank members of the We Demand an Apology Network, our LGBTQ2 apology advisory council, and the Just Society Committee of Egale, as well as the individuals who have long advocated for this overdue apology.
Through them, we have understood that we cannot simply paint over this part of our history. To erase this dark chapter would be a disservice to the community and to all Canadians.
We will work with the academic community and stakeholders to ensure that this history is known and publicly accessible.
We must remember, and we will remember. We will honour and memorialize the legacy of those who fought before us in the face of unbearable hatred and danger.
It is my hope that we will look back on today as a turning point, but there is still much more work to do ahead of us. Discrimination against LGBTQ2 communities is not a moment in time, but an ongoing centuries-old campaign. We want to be a partner and ally to LGBTQ2 Canadians in the years going forward. There are still real struggles facing these communities, including for those who are intersex, queer people of colour, and others who suffer from intersectional discrimination.
Transgender Canadians are subjected to discrimination, violence, and aggression at alarming rates. In fact, trans people did not even have explicit protection under federal human rights legislation until this year.
Mental health issues and suicides are higher among LGBTQ2 youth as a result of discrimination and harassment, and the homelessness rates among these young people is staggering.
There is still work to do on blood and organ donation, and the over-criminalization of HIV non-disclosure. The government needs to continue working with our partners to improve policies and programs.
That said, there are important and significant changes coming. The repeal of section 159 of the Criminal Code is working its way through the House of Commons.
I am proud to say that earlier today in the House we tabled the expungement of historically unjust convictions act. This will mean that Canadians previously convicted of consensual sexual activity with same sex partners will have their criminal records permanently destroyed.
Further, I am pleased to announce that over the course of the weekend we reached an agreement in principle with those involved in the class action lawsuit for actions related to the purge.
Never again will Canada's government be the source of so much pain for members of the LGBTQ2 communities. We promise to consult and work with individuals and communities to right these wrongs and begin to rebuild trust. We will ensure there are systems in place so these kinds of hateful practices are a thing of the past. Discrimination and oppression of LGBTQ2 Canadians will not be tolerated anymore.
With dialogue and with understanding, we will move forward together, but we cannot do it alone. The changing of hearts and minds is a collective effort. We need to work together, across jurisdictions, with indigenous peoples and LGBTQ2 communities, to make the crucial progress that LGBTQ2 Canadians deserve.
Canada's history is far from perfect, but we believe in acknowledging and righting past wrongs so we can learn from them. For all our differences, for all our diversity, we can find love and support in our common humanity.
We are Canadians and we want the very best for each other, regardless of our sexual orientation or our gender identity or expression. We will support one another in our fight for equality, and Canada will stand tall on the international stage as we proudly advocate for equal rights for LGBTQ2 communities around the world.
To the kids who are listening at home and who fear rejection because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, and to those who are nervous and scared but also excited about what their future might hold, we are all worthy of love and deserving of respect.
Whether you discover your truth at six, 16, or at 60, who you are is valid.
To members of the LGBTQ2 communities, young and old, here in Canada and around the world, you are loved and we support you.
Canada gets a little bit stronger every day that we choose to embrace, and to celebrate, who we are in all our uniqueness.
We are a diverse nation. We are enriched by the lives, experiences, and contributions of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit.
To the trailblazers who have lived and struggled and to those who have fought so hard to get us to this place, thank you for your courage and thank you for lending your voices. I hope and I know that you look back on all you have done with pride. It is because of your courage that we are here today together reminding ourselves and each other that we can and must do better.
For the oppression of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit communities, we apologize. On behalf of the government, Parliament, and the people of Canada, we were wrong. We are sorry. We will never let this happen again.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to join my colleagues in the House to reflect on a terrible moment of injustice in the history of the Canadian federal government.
It is our responsibility, as parliamentarians, to defend the fundamental freedoms and rights of all Canadians.
Among those rights is that of equal treatment before and under the law without unjust discrimination, and to be free of any cruel or unusual treatment or punishment.
We are here today because many years ago and for too long the government of Canada failed in its duty to protect the basic rights of hundreds of the very Canadians who had dedicated their lives to public service.
These men and women, these citizens, lost their jobs because they were suspected of being gay.
At a basic level, Canadians can perhaps picture what losing your livelihood can do to your self-esteem, to your family, to your own quality of life.
However, it is nothing when compared to the fear and intimidation that many women and men experienced in dealing with their own government and the institutions that they selflessly served.
For a dark chapter in its history, the Government of Canada perpetuated this injustice. It took upon itself the mantle of judge, jury, and set the private lives of its citizens in its sights. Too often and in too many cases around the world we have seen the terrible consequences of overreaching governments.
We need to have an honest discussion with the people who were targeted by the terrible campaign that sought to expose and humiliate LGBTQ2 individuals in the public service.
In this country, we deplore and condemn injustice towards the innocent, the oppressed, and the persecuted.
Interrogation and harassment based on fear is its own injustice. We must not fail to mention the toll this campaign of intimidation took on the brave women and men in uniform who found themselves the target of their superiors.
For those who serve our country, the government's accusations regarding their personal lives were made even more offensive by the insinuation that they were acting against the interests of the country they were devoted to. This type of insult is difficult to imagine and impossible to measure.
The women and men who dedicate their lives to defending Canadians at home and abroad were subjected to a secret and unfair trial: they were arrested and chastised and they were humiliated in front of their families, friends and colleagues; many livelihoods were destroyed and many lives were cut short. I firmly believe that we have to acknowledge that this country is only getting better.
Hard work has been done over generations to ensure Canada remains a champion of justice, human rights, and liberty. All of us here continually strive to be better, as elected officials, as a people, and as a country.
The Conservatives deeply believe in these principles. All human beings have the same value and the same dignity and deserve respect, and women and men who have differing views respect each other as human beings.
The government cannot, the government must not deny the dignity or freedom of those citizens who seek to make Canada a better place. How you treat your fellow Canadians, how you work every day to make the country stronger, how you give of yourself to your families, to your communities, and to your loved ones, those are the true measures of one's love for Canada.
Today’s apology must be an opportunity for all of us to recommit to defending human rights, not only here, in Canada, but around the world. Too many countries around the globe, today, have despicable policies that officialize the harassment of gays and lesbians. Too often, the consequences are not only job loss and public shame, but torture and death.
Canada is better than that. We must do more to stand up for the LGBTQ2 community in places like Iran, Russia, and other countries where it is the target of brutal violence. I am personally proud of the work done by the previous government to prioritize these and other refugee groups who are particularly vulnerable.
We all have a duty, here, today, to ensure that Canada is the best for everyone, no matter who they are. For those who were forced to abandon a career they spent years building and for those who were rejected without recourse, we hope that today’s apology offers some justice.
It cannot undo the wrongdoing and pain they have endured, but it is another important step toward leaving the next generation a Parliament that more fully embraces its duty to protect the rights and freedoms of every person it was built to serve.
Mr. Speaker, New Democrats welcome and support today's apology. We join the government in acknowledging the harm that was done to the entire LGBTQ community, but especially the severe impacts that prejudice, discrimination, and persecution have had on individuals. We also want to honour today those many activists who resisted these campaigns and fought back against social prejudice. Today is the vindication of your struggles.
It is high time that we recognized that the careers and lives of thousands of Canadians were ruined, not only through the endemic discrimination, homophobia, and transphobia of the past, but also by government policies and campaigns to single out members of the LGBTQ community for persecution.
It could take several forms. There were countless criminal prosecutions for consensual same-sex activity. Special units were created in the Canadian Forces to ferret out gay and lesbian members and to drive them out of the Forces, either by forcing them to resign, by offering an honourable discharge for their co-operation, or by imposing various forms of less-than-honourable mentions on those who were hounded out.
There was even a secret committee of senior public servants and RCMP officers in Ottawa who sometimes met weekly to conduct a campaign of dismissals from the public service and the RCMP.
Despite the fact that consensual same-sex activity had been legalized in 1969, with the support of both the Liberals and the NDP, these government activities targeting the LGBTQ community continued well into the nineties. Anyone who doubts the relentlessness of these campaigns has only to read Gary Kinsman's book, The Canadian War on Queers, for the proof that these campaigns had devastating consequences: careers cut short, and family and social lives ruined because of the impact of being outed as a result of a firing or an arrest.
As time went on, members of the LGBTQ community began to resist. Long-serving New Democratic member of Parliament Svend Robinson worked tirelessly for change as the first, and for many years only, openly gay member of Parliament in the House of Commons. Among all the issues he tackled, perhaps most significant was his success in having sexual orientation added to the hate crimes section of the Criminal Code with a private member's bill that became law in 2004.
Let us also remember that James Egan and John Nesbit fought in the courts for recognition of equal spousal pension rights, and won, when sexual orientation was added to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a prohibited ground for discrimination by the Supreme Court in 1995.
Some 25 years ago this October, a very brave member of the Canadian Forces, Michelle Douglas, challenged her dismissal from the forces in court and won a judgment outlawing dismissal from the Canadian Forces on the basis of sexual orientation.
This apology, nearly 25 years after the end of the discharges from the military and the firings from the public service, and 50 years after the legalization of same-sex activity, comes none too soon for those who were its victims.
Simply the idea of an apology has been on the agenda for a very long time. Long-time NDP member Libby Davies, the first openly lesbian woman in this House, tabled a motion over three years ago calling for a meaningful apology for those fired from the public service.
Today we should also acknowledge the work of those who helped make this apology possible, especially the advisory council that worked with the government to get this apology before us today and the activists from We Demand an Apology Network and Egale's Just Society Committee, which not only made the case for justice but kept up the pressure on the government to act.
Most of all we should thank those survivors of the anti-LGBTQ campaigns who have come forward to tell their heart-wrenching stories yet one more time.
Apologies are in themselves a form of justice. The New Democrats are pleased that the apology was delivered today by the Prime Minister and inserted into the House of Commons record. The New Democrats were afraid that today there would be only an apology, without any mention of restitution. We were pleased to see movement on the part of the government in recent days to include measures that begin to deal with the substance of the harms for which the apology was given.
The New Democrats are committing today to work with the government to ensure that this legislation is passed quickly by the House and that it is exhaustive. We are also committing to continue working with the LGBTQ community to ensure that the legislative changes will become a daily reality, since there is still too much work to be done in terms of justice for the LGBTQ community.
We hope that today will mark a true change of gears for the government on LGBTQ issues, and that it will bring about a renewed climate of co-operation on these issues in Parliament.
New Democrats are also pleased to hear that the government has reached an agreement in principle with the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit against the government. The lawsuit sought restitution for specific harms to individuals resulting from the government's campaign of firings from the public service, the RCMP, and the Canadian Forces. While the damage suffered was never limited to just financial losses, just compensation is an important part of any effort toward restorative justice.
We acknowledge the openness the showed in working with the member for on passing his former private member's bill as a government bill.
There is still much to do to change government policies and practices so they honour the new legislated right to be free from discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. Let us get to work, starting today, with transgender and gender variant Canadians on implementing Bill .
When it comes to ending the legal discrimination against the LGBTQ community, there is no question as to what needs to be done.
We are pleased today to see the introduction of a bill to expunge the criminal records of gay men who engaged in consensual sexual activity with same sex partners. However, it is not as though we do not know what such a bill might look like.
Philip Toone, an NDP MP from Quebec during the last Parliament, introduced such measures in 2014 under private member's business. Similar measures were introduced that same day by way of apology by the Australian government in Queensland, by New Zealand, and by Scotland.
Measures to counter this injustice should have been in place decades ago. We must not forget that this bill is not only symbolic. Every day, gay men with unjust criminal records are prevented from travelling or volunteering, and face discrimination when it comes to employment.
We hope to see authorization to proceed in addressing the cases of those kicked out of the Canadian Forces with something less than fully honourable discharges. After all, more than a year ago, the national defence committee unanimously approved a motion from the member for calling on the to authorize the military ombudsman to begin revising the service records of those who were driven out of the Canadian Forces based on who they loved. We understand that aspects of dismissals from the forces will be covered in the settlement of the class action law suit, but the revision of service records still needs to happen.
The NDP welcomes the government's promise to move forward with removing section 159 from the Criminal Code, a section under which the age of consent for anal intercourse is different than it is for heterosexual relations.
Although the government introduced a bill to that effect, it has been held up at first reading stage for several months. A similar bill was already introduced in the House in the last Parliament, in 2014, by former NDP MP Craig Scott.
There is, of course, one sense in which this apology risks ringing hollow. That will be if this Parliament fails to act expeditiously to end discriminatory laws and policies that continue to penalize and stigmatize the LGBTQ community. As some have said, this would be a good time to stop doing things the government might have to apologize for in the future.
The discriminatory gay blood ban remains in place, despite the fact that almost every health professional agrees that there is no science behind the ban. This is a policy that not only stigmatizes gay men but continues to restrict the supply of blood and organs at a time when the need is so great.
Members of the LGBTQ community have waited decades for our government to acknowledge the systemic nature of the injustices perpetrated against their community.
Therefore, today is an important day marked by an apology presented on behalf of all Canadians and the government's commitment to make amends.
What we have acknowledged today is that the injustices perpetrated against, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Canadians by the government were both egregious and systemic.
New Democrats hope that today will mark more than simply turning the page on this regrettable part of our history. Instead, this apology should be the springboard for action both here in Parliament and in Canadian society. We must begin by removing the last vestiges of institutional discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex, and transgender Canadians. We must also eradicate the prejudice that lives in our communities and affects our siblings, children, parents, friends, and neighbours.
From Svend Robinson to Libby Davies to the members for and , and so many more, the NDP consistently stood with the LGBTQ community and followed its lead on these vital civil rights issues. It is our hope that all Canadians take today as an opportunity to move forward and continue to build the inclusive, accepting country that we all know we can be.
Mr. Speaker, today we are revisiting a dark chapter in the history of Canada. It is an opportunity to remind ourselves how far we have to go in the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation. We still have a very long way to go.
Up until 1992, not only was there discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirited government employees, but it was tolerated. It was an official policy. Until 1992, discrimination based on sexual orientation was a reason of state.
Canada violated human rights under the pretext of its best interests and security. It was not enough to violate the rights of LGBTQ2 people. It was not enough to insult them, to treat them like second class citizens, and to treat them like a threat to their country. The federal government placed investigative units at the service of discrimination. It even created a device, which I will not name because it is insulting, to help determine people's sexual orientation.
Canada hunted down these people in order to fire and disgrace them, as though they were criminals. They continue to suffer today. It was systemic discrimination of LGBTQ2 people and the majority used every political and institutional means to impose its values on others. This did not happen in the middle ages, it happened up until 1992.
The Bloc Québécois fully supports the essential apology the government made today. We expect that apology to be accompanied by fair and equitable compensation for the victims of this systemic discrimination. It is absolutely essential that the Canadian government and Parliament send a strong message.
We want to tell members of the LGBTQ2 community that we are proud to have them with us, as our family members, friends, colleagues, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, successors, retirees, and, yes, soldiers and public servants. In short, we are proud to have them in our society.
It is essential to send a strong message because, although there has been some progress in the fight against discrimination since 1992, that progress is built on a shaky foundation. The fight for equality will never be entirely won. Women know something about that. We must never lose sight of the fact that we are not immune to setbacks. Women know something about that too.
It is essential to send a strong message as parliamentarians because a wave of intolerance has been spreading across the world and we need to fight it together. We must present a united front in the fight for equality for all when faced with an extreme right that is increasingly vocal, powerful, and closer to home. When faced with the growing influence of religious and doctrinal currents in state affairs, we must present a united front in the fight for equality for all.
We must always remain steadfast in the fight for equality and not make any compromises. If there is one principle that we are prepared to defend, it is our freedom to be who we are, and live and love as we see fit, no matter who we are.
This apology should be a time for reflection and should send a strong and determined message that the time for discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirited individuals is over, period.
Mr. Speaker, what wonderful speeches from my friend from and from all the other leaders and party representatives in the House.
I am honoured to speak today. I would like to thank our for the official apology he made today. He is a great man, and the day of heartfelt official apologies has finally come.
This is an important day, and I thank the , the Government of Canada, the member of Parliament for , the member of Parliament for , and all those who have gone before, like Libby Davies and Svend Robinson, all of those in this place who recognized there has been a historic injustice, one that touched all aspects of the lives of our friends, brothers, sisters, parents, and cousins.
Throughout this society, people have suffered: the trailblazers, and we know them, those who first achieved equal marriage, the first same-sex couple to marry in British Columbia, my friends Tom Graff and Antony Porcino, and my friends and constituents, Robin Roberts and Diana Denny, whose fight was so deeply personal, so difficult, after being told they could not marry and raise their children together. However, today's apology focuses on something in some ways that was even more brutal, no less personal, the drumming of people out of the jobs they earned because of their partners, the people they love.
I want to specifically say that I am very honoured that two of my constituents are here for this apology, Emma Smith and Mary Lou Williams, who were fine soldiers until the military discovered they loved each other. They ended up in military prison. People know how hard it is to go through the decision to tell their parents. The last thing they imagine is that the military police will tell them for them. They are brave and, like many in this room, we acknowledge and thank the We Demand an Apology Network, without which I think many of these people would have gone through years of feeling shame, feeling isolated, thinking it was only they.
Anyone who served with Emma would say she was the best soldier in that platoon. Canada not only punished, shamed, ostracized, and violated the civil and human rights of Canadians, we also deprived ourselves of excellent soldiers, terrific members of the RCMP, and people who would have been wonderful diplomats in our foreign service. Our stupidity, blindness, and ignorance punished our society while bringing grievous injustice and long-lasting pain to people who had done nothing wrong but want to serve their country, and this apology matters.
I think there are cynics among us who would say at one point that surely Canada's government has apologized enough. We apologized for residential schools, we apologized for the Komagata Maru, and we will probably apologize for turning the St. Louis around in Halifax harbour, and we now apologize to the LGBTQ community, and somehow someone might wonder if apologies matter. I want to say clearly that I know they matter. They matter to the people who have suffered injustice, they matter to the families of those who have died and never got to hear this apology, they matter to all Canadians who know that we recognize that we have wronged our fellow citizens and that we will never do it again.
We have been here a while and this is an emotional thing, but it needs to be said that this is a wonderful moment for all those who are oppressed, wherever they are and for whatever reason. I think transgender people really need our support now. I lost a friend just in October. Dr. Susan Roddy took her own life. She was a wonderful mathematics professor at Brandon University in Manitoba. She was still suffering discrimination and injustice as a trans woman.
We are not there yet. We have not righted all of the wrongs, we have not eliminated all of the discrimination, but we stand here today and the quote that comes to mind is from a speech by Martin Luther King: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”