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Politics Bill expunging criminal records of men convicted of homosexual acts passes the Senate

Bill C-66, which expunges the records of men who were criminally convicted when homosexual acts were a crime, cleared the Senate Wednesday afternoon and will soon become law.

The bill is the direct result of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apology in the House of Commons late last year to those who were criminally prosecuted or persecuted at work because of their sexuality. It resulted from a Globe and Mail investigation into the historic mistreatment of sexual minorities by the Canadian government.

The stories initially focused on the case of Everett Klippert, who was committed to prison for life in the 1960s for having sex with men. He was released in 1971 and died in 1996. Other stories investigated discrimination against homosexuals in the public service and military, which only ended in the late 1980s.

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Outrage over Mr. Klippert’s sentence led Pierre Trudeau to introduce legislation that made consenting homosexual acts legal in 1968. With his son’s apology and acts of redress, an historic journey is completed.

The legislation was criticized by some activists because it does not expunge the records of people who were arrested and convicted of being found-ins in a common bawdy house during police bathhouse raids, most of which took place in the 1970s and 1980s. Those raids were eventually found to be illegal by the courts.

But advocates of the bill urged the Senate not to return it to the House, which would have placed its future at risk. Most senators agreed. Securing the expungements of the criminal records of so-called “found ins” may be possible through regulatory changes to the legislation.

“It’s not a perfect bill, but it’s a very good bill,” said lawyer Douglas Elliott who led a project by the LGBTQ rights group Egale that advocated for reforms in the wake of the Globe articles. “It’s a big step forward and long overdue.”

As well, thousands of people in the public service and military who were dismissed or harassed because of their sexuality will be receiving compensation as a result of a class- action lawsuit, led by Mr. Elliott, that also followed from the Globe stories and that should be resolved in June.

“The passage of Bill C-66 is a testament to Canada’s commitment to the advancement of sexual minority rights,” said Independent Senator René Cormier, who called the legislation “an important step in the healing process for thousands of Canadians in the LGBTQ2 community.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said people were convicted of gross indecency during the police bathhouse raids in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, they were convicted of being found-ins in a common bawdy house.
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