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Politics Feds to spend $145-million to compensate victims of past LGBTQ discrimination

Mary Lou Williams and Emma Smith met as military recruits in the 1980s, and were imprisoned and interrogated during their attempts to leave the military.

CHAD HIPOLITO/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

The federal government will spend $145-million to compensate thousands of people who were purged from the public service because they were gay or lesbian, the largest financial commitment by any national government for past wrongs committed against sexual minorities.

The level of compensation for individuals will be determined by an adjudicator based on the degree of harm they suffered, The Globe and Mail has learned. The funds will also be dedicated to creating a memorial in Ottawa for victims of past LGBTQ discrimination and there will be money for education and memorialization projects across Canada.

Following a series of stories in The Globe and Mail detailing unjust convictions of homosexuals in the past, and unjust dismissals of homosexual members of the military and public service, the Liberal government committed to offering an apology for those injustices, and pardons for those convicted of crimes that are no longer crimes.

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Justin Trudeau says he is apologizing for past discrimination against sexual minorities as a way to prevent such discrimination in the future.

"Apologies for things past are important to make sure that we actually understand and know and share and don't repeat those mistakes," the Prime Minister said during a question-and-answer session at a conference on social policy in Toronto on Monday.

Although great progress has been made in advancing the rights of LGBTQ Canadians, "there is still so much discrimination that recognizing it will make a big difference," he added, "and it will also help a whole bunch of people who hopefully wouldn't have to go through in their future careers the kind of discrimination that happened in the past decades."

Mr. Trudeau's apology will target people who were harassed and dismissed during a purge of homosexuals from the federal public service, the Canadian Forces, the RCMP and the intelligence services over four decades ending in the 1990s.

About 3,000 people may be eligible to make a claim. Many others have died. The redress is the product of an agreement-in-principle reached last week in a class-action lawsuit between victims of the purge and the federal government.

The government will also pardon and expunge the records of those who were convicted under unjust laws that criminalized homosexuality.

In that issue, there are several answered questions about how far the federal government is prepared to go.

The Globe told the story of Everett Klippert, who was labelled a dangerous sexual offender – in effect a life sentence – in 1967 because he repeatedly had sex with other men.

At the time of publication, in February, 2016, Mr. Trudeau committed to a posthumous pardon for Mr. Klippert, whose case led to homosexual acts being decriminalized in 1969.

The government also committed to considering a pardon for all men convicted of committing same-sex acts when such acts were illegal.

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That commitment launched a process that expanded to Tuesday's comprehensive apology. But although the government has committed to pardons and to expunging the records of those convicted, the scope of the commitment is unknown.

Will only those convicted of buggery or gross indecency prior to 1969 have their records expunged? Or will it include people convicted of gross indecency – homosexual acts beyond that of two adult men in a private place – before that law was repealed in 1985?

Will convictions be expunged from the public record en masse, or will people need to apply individually?

And will "found-ins" and "keepers-of" – people who were visiting or working in bath houses in the days when police raided those establishments – also be pardoned and have their records expunged? We can expect answers to these questions when the legislation is introduced on Tuesday.

A final question concerns the release of documents. Ottawa has refused to release files surrounding the purge, including such things as memoranda laying out the intent and scope of the policy and the files of individual cases. Much will have been lost during routine shredding of government documents, but much may remain.

The question is whether the government is open to disclosing everything of value left to disclose, while also protecting the privacy of those who were investigated.

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