The House of Commons has passed legislation that will expunge the records of people convicted of criminal offences simply because they were gay, fulfilling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's commitment to offer redress to those who were prosecuted by the justice system because of their sexuality.
"Today, Canadians who were unjustly convicted because of who they loved are one step closer to clearing their names and moving on with their lives," Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault, Mr. Trudeau's adviser on LGBTQ issues, told the House on Wednesday, shortly before the bill passed third reading with unanimous consent.
Bill C-66, the Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act, will allow men who were convicted under now-repealed sodomy and gross indecency laws to apply to have their convictions erased.
Those convicted "were systematically discriminated against and demeaned," the Edmonton MP told the House, "and they spent much of their lives with all of the repercussions of a criminal record, unable in some cases to find work or even to travel with their families."
With the passage of Bill C-66, Mr. Boissonnault said, the House was sending those men a clear message: "Your country is deeply sorry. Your country was wrong. And your country wants to make amends and help your healing process."
The bill passed rapidly through the House of Commons after it was introduced three weeks ago. Too rapidly, in the opinion of some advocates for the rights of sexual minorities. Steven Maynard, a historian at Queen's University, wrote in The Globe and Mail that the bill was flawed and in need of amending. In particular, it did not permit the overturning of convictions for those who were charged under bawdy-house laws in the days when police raided gay bars and bath houses.
NDP MP Randall Garrison urged the government to make those bawdy-house convictions eligible for expungement, which Mr. Boissonnault promised to consider after consultations with the LGBTQ community.
Despite these concerns, the NDP joined the Conservatives, the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party in supporting the bill, which Mr. Garrison hoped would not only redress past wrongs, but serve as "a springboard for action to remove ongoing discrimination" against LGBTQ Canadians.
The legislation is part of the public apology the Prime Minister made last month in response to stories in The Globe and Mail that examined historic discrimination against sexual minorities, including the case of Everett Klippert, who was sentenced to life in prison as a dangerous offender in the 1960s because he was, in the opinion of a psychiatric panel, "incurably homosexual."
The legislation still must be approved in the Senate, which may decide to hold hearings on the bill and propose amendments.