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It is our nation's shame, a disgrace perpetrated against thousands of Canadians and their families, and it belongs to all of us.

Soldiers booted from national service for "abnormal sexuality"; public servants dismissed or consigned to bureaucratic purgatory, clearances revoked, because the essence of their being – and the people they fell in love with – supposedly made them a threat to national security.

Some were convicted of the "crime" of being homosexual. Others were subjected to odious witchhunts led by their government colleagues, or to the obnoxious pseudo-science of the "fruit machine" – a bogus device designed to detect homosexuality in men, and a sickening example of state-backed homophobia if there ever was one.

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Some tragically cut their lives short.

The era when sex between anyone other than heterosexual men and women was a crime is an ugly stain on our country's history.

It is also a fairly fresh one. As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau correctly said in the House of Commons on Tuesday, "These aren't distant practices of governments long forgotten."

And so Mr. Trudeau delivered an overdue but nonetheless historic and poignant official apology in the House of Commons.

"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," the Prime Minister said. "The state orchestrated a culture of stigma and fear around LGBTQ2 communities. And in doing so, destroyed people's lives.

"We were wrong. We apologize. I am sorry. We are sorry."

His words were warmly applauded by the LGBTQ people packing the Commons galleries and by all the MPs in attendance. Taking full responsibility for past misdeeds goes beyond partisanship, perhaps because apologizing is a requisite step toward atonement.

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Indeed, it's something we learn in childhood. Apologies are an admission of violation and an attempt to restore dignity to those they are offered to. But contrition only goes so far, and it is no substitute for action.

That's where Ottawa's $145-million settlement to compensate victims of the government purges of the past comes in, as does a new bill to facilitate the expunging of convictions for the crime of being gay.

To paraphrase the words of G.K. Chesterton, injured parties don't want to be compensated because they have been wronged. They wish to be healed because they have been hurt.

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