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Jailed for homosexuality

The Story

A Supreme Court ruling comes down, and a Northwest Territories mechanic named George Klippert is on his way to jail. His crime is that he is a homosexual. In this CBC Radio clip, Bud Orange, Klippert's MP, says he hopes the government is forced to make a move as a result of the ruling. Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau responds that proposed changes to the criminal code will prevent more cases like Klippert's. Klippert has been to court twice already: first when he was convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to three years in prison, and second when he was deemed a dangerous sexual offender. He's appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which upholds the ruling in a 3-2 decision and sends Klippert to jail indefinitely -- the standard sentence for dangerous sexual offenders. 

Medium: Radio
Program: The World At Six
Broadcast Date: Nov. 7, 1967
Guest(s): Brian Crane, Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Reporter: Tom Earle
Duration: 3:15

Did You know?

• The Klippert case began in 1965 during an arson investigation in Pine Point, N.W.T. Klippert wasn't involved in the fire, but when he was questioned by the RCMP, he voluntarily said he'd had sexual relations with four men. He was charged with four counts of gross indecency, all for consensual, private, non-violent acts.

• Klippert was visited in prison by a Crown-appointed psychiatrist. In 1966, he concluded that Klippert's homosexuality was "incurable," and that he therefore met the criteria regarding dangerous sexual offenders. Justice J.H. Sissons agreed and sentenced Klippert to preventive detention -- an indefinite term in prison. Nevertheless, Justice Sissons said: "I think the penitentiary term is going to do the accused considerable harm and will not help him and will not help the public."

• Although the Supreme Court decision was 3-2 in favour of dismissing Klippert's appeal, dissenting Chief Justice John R. Cartwright suggested the laws around homosexuality be clarified, and that incarceration of harmless homosexuals was not their intention.

• The following day in the House of Commons, NDP leader Tommy Douglas called for a committee study of homosexuality, and said the law should view it as a social and psychiatric problem, not a criminal one.

• The Klippert case stoked considerable media and political interest, and just six weeks later Trudeau introduced Bill C-150, also known as the Omnibus Bill, into the House of Commons. Among other things, the bill called for the decriminalization of private, consensual homosexual acts between people over the age of 21.

• Before homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969, people were routinely charged with gross indecency -- a charge almost always applied to homosexuals -- but rarely for private, consensual acts. In 1975, 65 people convicted of gross indecency were in jail.

• George Klippert was released from prison on July 21, 1971.


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