The Liberal government has announced that it intends to review the cases of hundreds of gay men who were convicted of sexual offences prior to the legalization of homosexual acts in 1969.
Specifically, it plans to examine "cases of individuals who were convicted of 'gross indecency' and 'buggery' in past years, in order to determine if a pardon is warranted."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also "intends to recommend that a pardon under the authority of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy be granted posthumously" to Everett George Klippert, the only Canadian to be declared a dangerous sexual offender simply because he was gay.
Mr. Trudeau decided to recommend the pardon and order the review after The Globe and Mail raised Mr. Klippert's case with the government this week, as part of its investigation into circumstances surrounding Mr. Klippert's conviction. "Everett Klippert's case was instrumental in the government's decision to decriminalize homosexual acts between consenting adults," Cameron Ahmad, press secretary to the Prime Minister, said in a statement.
Everett George Klippert, who was born in 1926, was convicted of 18 counts of gross indecency by a Calgary court in 1960, and spent four years in prison after pleading guilty to having consensual sex short of intercourse with other men. (Intercourse, or "buggery," was a separate offence.) After a second conviction in 1965 in Hay River, NWT, on four additional counts of gross indecency, and a sentence of a further three years, the Crown attorney in Yellowknife applied to have him designated a dangerous sexual offender.
Two psychiatrists who examined Mr. Klippert said that he was not a pedophile or in any way inclined to violence – they found him "intelligent," "courteous" and "sensitive" – but concluded he was likely to once again seek out sex with men upon his release. For that reason, Justice John Sissons went ahead and designated Mr. Klippert a dangerous sexual offender, subject to life imprison– ment.
The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the designation in a 3-to-2 ruling in 1967, causing a furor in Parliament and the press. A month later, then-justice minister Pierre Trudeau introduced legislation that, among other provisions, decriminalized consensual homosexual acts between two adult men.
"There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation," he told reporters, echoing a Globe and Mail editorial of the week before.
A similar bill became law in 1969, when Mr. Trudeau was prime minister. But for reasons that remain unclear, Mr. Klippert was not released on parole until 1971, having spent a total of 10 years in prison.
The government's statement this week said: "As Canadians, we know that protecting and promoting fundamental human rights must be an imperative for governments and individuals alike – and this includes gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. We have made great strides in securing legal rights for the LGBTQ2 [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, and two-spirited] community in Canada … but the fight to end discrimination is not over and a lot of hard work remains.
"Canadians know our country is made stronger because of our diversity, not in spite of it."
After his release from prison, Mr. Klippert moved to Edmonton, where he found work as a truck driver. He died in 1996, at the age of 69.
Laws prohibiting sexual acts between men, accompanied by very stiff penalties, predate Confederation. (The laws did not appear to contemplate the possibility of sex between women.) In the 1950s, governments in developed countries confronted two conflicting forces: the fear that homosexuals either were inclined to support communism or susceptible to blackmail by communists, and increasing pressure by voters – especially younger voters – to liberalize laws relating to sexuality.
While England and Wales decriminalized homosexual acts in 1967, in Canada the government of John Diefenbaker decided to toughen existing laws. In 1961, it changed the definition of a dangerous sexual offender to include anyone who was likely to re-offend after committing a sexual offence. Mr. Klippert was the first and only person to be held in preventive detention – in effect, a life sentence – because a judge found he was likely to continue to seek out other men for sex after he was released.
Although the Supreme Court upheld the designation, Chief Justice John Cartwright wrote a stinging dissent, saying "it means that every man in Canada who indulges in sexual misconduct … with another consenting adult male and who appears likely, if at liberty, to continue such misconduct should be sentenced to preventive detention," which "would bring about serious overcrowding" in the nation's prisons.