The Current

There's a 'major contradiction' between Trudeau's apology to LGBTQ Canadians and Bill C-66, prof says

The bill omits convictions from bathhouse raids, which critics of the bill say targeted gay men even if the charges themselves were not specific to sexual identity.

'This work is never done,' says MP in response to critics who say the bill does not go far enough

Bill C-66 allows Canadians, or family members of Canadians who have died, to apply to erase past criminal convictions for three offences — buggery, gross indecency and anal intercourse. (Michele Tantussi/Getty Images)
Listen19:30

Read Story Transcript

Longtime AIDS advocate Ron Rosenes was among 250 gay men arrested in the 1981 bathhouse raids in Toronto.

But that conviction is not covered under the recently passed Bill C-66, which erases past convictions dating back to when homosexual acts were a crime.

Rosenes plans to fill out the online form asking to be expunged, even though he said he will likely be refused.

"This isn't just for me personally," he said. "It's really a question of justice and fairness under the law."

Ron Rosenes was among 250 gay men arrested in the 1981 bathhouse raids in Toronto. (Devin Heroux/CBC)

Bill C-66 allows Canadians, or family members of Canadians who have died, to apply to erase past criminal convictions for three offences — buggery, gross indecency and anal intercourse.

But it omits convictions from bathhouse raids, which critics say targeted gay men even if the charges themselves were not specific to sexual identity.

Last November, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke of the victims of the bathhouse raids in his apology to LGBTQ public servants who had been mistreated and fired.

"There is a real, major contradiction between Justin Trudeau on November 28, 2017, actually mentioning the bawdy-house laws, and the bathhouse raids and them not being included in this legislation," Gary Kinsman, a professor emeritus of sociology at Laurentian University, told The Current's summer host Mike Finnerty. He is also a member of the We Demand an Apology Network, the group that pushed for Trudeau to take action in righting the historical wrongs the Canadian government committed against LGBTQ people in Canada. 

He says that there is "a whole range of other offences related to trans-people, related to sex workers, related to the criminalization of HIV that are not included."

"It seems like they're only willing to deal with the offences that came out of the 1969 Criminal Code reform, which were very limited — extremely partial decriminalization of only two homosexual-related offences — or else, maybe they're afraid of taking away any offence that the police could still continue to use against our community."

Edmonton Centre MP Randy Boissonnault, a special advisor to Trudeau on LGBTQ issues, said "it's not a question of not following through," in regards to the prime minister bringing up the bathhouse raids but not addressing it in the legislation.

"C-66 has been designed in a way that once having this base piece of legislation, we could look at other historical offences," he said. 

According to Boissonnault, dealing with bawdy-house laws would be "subject to a much rougher ride both in the House of Commons and in the Senate."

When asked if he accepts that the dossier is not finished, Boissonnault conceded that "this work is never done."

"We've got 40 to 60 per cent of kids on the street, LGBTQ kids. We've got seniors that are being re-closeted because the older seniors don't want to know about it. The work is not done. And when it comes to protecting Canadians' LGBTQ rights, we're going to continue to do that work." 

Listen to the full discussion near the top of this page.


This segment was produced by The Current's Ines Colabrese and Noushin Ziafati.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.