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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 21, 2017.
Mary Altaffer/AP
Citizenship

Trudeau Just Apologized to LGBTQ2 Workers Who Were Fired by the Government as Recently as the '90s

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood in the House of Commons today to deliver a historic apology to the LGBTQ2 community, and specifically to civil servants who were once condemned by the government for who they were.

"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 the House this afternoon.

The apology was specifically directed at LGBTQ2 federal public servants who served in the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP, as well as LGBTQ2 Indigenous Peoples who were discriminated against by the government.

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"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," he said.

From the 1950s to the early 1990s, the Canadian government conducted a systemic "purge" in which employees who were part of the LGBTQ2 community — or who were suspected to be — were fired, discharged, or intimidated into resigning from their posts.

The federal government even dedicated funding to the "fruit machine," a machine that was said to measure homosexual attraction.

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People subjected to the "fruit machine" would be shown pornographic images of the same sex and cameras looked at their pupils to see if they dilated as they watched. If they did, it supposedly indicated excitement and meant they were attracted to the same sex.

"Some suspects were taken to secret locations in the dark of night to be interrogated," Trudeau said, speaking of the constant and unfair surveillance of those suspected of being part of the LGBTQ2 community.

He spoke of the women and men who were abused by their superiors, asked demeaning questions about their sex lives, adding that some were even assaulted.

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"The number one job of any government is to keep its citizens safe," he said. "And on this, we have failed LGBTQ2 people, time and time again."

Canada previously convicted and imposed criminal records on people who engaged in consensual sexual activity with same-sex partners.

Today, the Government of Canada introduced legislation – Bill C-66, the Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act – that will lead to the permanent destruction of the unjust criminal records for offences involving consensual sexual activity between same-sex partners that would now be legal.

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"We are all worthy of love, and deserving of respect," he said. "Whether you discover your truth at 6 or 16 or 60, who you are is valid."

Trudeau took time to thank individuals and organizations who pushed the government to acknowledge this part of Canadian history, including LGBT advocacy group Egale Canada who released a report detailing the systemic discrimination and issued a number of recommendations, including that a formal apology be issued by Ottawa.

"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," Trudeau said.

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Trudeau’s statement was met with applause and some emotional responses as several hugs were shared following the apology.

"It is our collective shame that Canadians who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or two-spirit were unjustly treated – fired from jobs, denied promotions, surveilled, arrested, convicted, and vindictively shamed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. People lost their livelihoods, their families, and, some, their lives," he said in his official statement.

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