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‘These people were actively hunted down’ - N.L. advocates react to Trudeau's apology to LGBTQ2 Canadians

Gerry Rogers speaks at the Corner Brook Status of Women Council 40th anniversary dinner Wednesday night at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland.<br />Geraldine Brophy/The Western Star
Gerry Rogers. File photo

People were targeted by federal legislation

St. John’s Centre MHA Gerry Rogers says it was a moving experience to sit in the gallery of the House of Commons Tuesday during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s formal apology to LGBTQ2 Canadians.

“One woman was in her military uniform and a red beret,” Rogers said with clear emotion in her voice. “She sobbed throughout the entire apology, with her partner consoling her.”

Tuesday’s apology came after Egale Canada Human Rights Trust released its Just Society Report — Grossly Indecent, in June 2016.

The report highlighted historical wrongs by the Canadian government against the LGBTQ2 community, in particular with the “purge” of people from the public service, the RCMP and the armed forces.

“It’s very emotional for the community at large, but especially for the victims of the purge,” said Sue Rose, vice-president of Egale Canada.

From the 1950s to the early 1990s, the Canadian government discriminated against employees who were members, or suspected to be members, of LGBTQ2 communities.

This campaign soon became known as the purge, where workers were fired or intimidated into resigning because of their sexual orientation.

Rogers described being able to watch individuals whose lives were destroyed as a result of this purge receive a long-awaited apology.

“These people were actively hunted down. Their lives were ruined,” she said. “One thing I admired was that our prime minister said these acts will be written in history books, so that it never happens again.”

Gerard Yetman, executive director of the AIDS committee of Newfoundland and Labrador, told The Telegram this apology sends a strong message across the country.

“I am very glad that the government finally came through and apologized to the community,” Yetman said. “Actions taken decades ago certainly impacted the health and safety of the gays and lesbians in Canada.”

The Canadian government introduced new legislation on Tuesday — Bill C-66, the Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act.

This process will destroy the criminal records of individuals convicted of homosexual acts.

“Today is about so much more than an apology,” Rose said. “It’s compensation for the people whose lives were destroyed, simply for being who they are.”

In Trudeau’s apology, he announced that the Canadian government reached an agreement in principle with those involved in the class action lawsuit for actions related to the purge.

According to reports, the Canadian government has earmarked between $110 to $115 million to compensate the victims.

Not everybody who was a victim to these acts was able to hear the apology, Rogers told The Telegram.

“We must not forget about those who died by suicide because of these acts by the Canadian government,” she said.

Noah Davis-Power, a volunteer with Egale Canada, said that to the organization’s knowledge there have not been any Newfoundland and Labradorians who have come forward as victims of these wrongful acts by the Canadian government.

He told The Telegram that Egale Canada is capable of pointing any victim in the right direction for the process of receiving compensation.

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