‘Groundbreaking’ bill to expunge unjust convictions against LGBTQ2 Canadians moves forward in Senate
'We have been more than patient. It is time for change and innovation.'
A woman who was fired from the Canadian Armed Forces in the 1980s for homosexuality told a Senate committee that a bill to expunge historically unjust convictions against same-sex couples is “groundbreaking” legislation that will pave the way for future amends.
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights has now recommended that the Senate as a whole adopt the bill as is in a final vote, ensuring those who have been waiting for decades can finally clear their names.
In the past, same-sex partners who engaged in consensual sexual activity could be convicted of a crime in Canada and given a criminal record.
Bill C-66 would allow those individuals to request that the record of their unfair criminal convictions be destroyed. Representatives would also be able to apply for an expungement on behalf of a deceased person.
Martine Roy, a member of the human rights organization Just Society Committee, told the Senate committee that timely passage of the bill will help provide justice for many. She added more work needs to be done in the future to continue to repair the harms of the past.
“A bill is essential to establish a foundation, as well as to make reparations for historical injustices going forward,” she told the committee.
Roy explained that she was barely in her 20s when she was fired from the Canadian Armed Forces 30 some years ago for what was then described as sexual deviance, after being interrogated and sent to a psychiatrist.
Bill C-66 is part of the federal government’s movement of inclusion, she said.
“This bill allows government and lawmakers to recognize that for centuries, Parliament created and sustained laws that were discriminatory in nature. Such laws and discriminatory measures predate Canadian Confederation,” she said.
“The LGBTQ2 community has been waiting since the 18th century. It was a very long time ago. We have been more than patient. It is time for change and innovation.”
The legislation focuses on three charges. That includes two historic crimes – gross indecency and buggery – which have been struck from the Criminal Code, as well as the prohibition against anal intercourse, which has been found unconstitutional and will be struck from the Criminal Code in a separate piece of legislation that is still before the House of Commons.
Three criteria are necessary for expungement:
- The activity for which the person was convicted was between persons of the same sex;
- The sexual activity was consensual; and
- The persons who participated in the activity were at least 16 years old at the time, or are subject to a close in age defence under the Criminal Code.
Senator René Cormier, an independent representing New Brunswick, is sponsoring the bill in the Senate.