To Forgive and Forget? Homonationalism, Hegemony, and History in the Gay Apology

By Steven Maynard

This is a featured paper co-published with C4E Journal: Perspectives on Ethics

In June 2017, in a ceremony on Parliament Hill, where “the Pride, Transgender Pride, and Canada 150 flags were raised,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau officially announced what he’d been promising for over a year: “The government will introduce legislation to make it possible to erase the convictions for Canadians who were found guilty under historical, unjust laws for sexual activity with a same sex partner.”[1]

For a historian, who is typically tucked away in the archives, it can be a tad disconcerting to discover the records you’ve been working with for the past almost three decades – historical court records of sexual offences between men – might be ‘erased.’ It began in February 2016 when the prime minister’s press secretary conveyed the government’s intention to seek a posthumous pardon for Everett Klippert, the man whose multiple convictions for gross indecency during the 1960s led to his designation as a ‘dangerous sexual offender’ and indefinite imprisonment, and whose case played a part in pushing Justin’s father to partially decriminalize homosexuality in 1969. The review of records and possible pardons for those convicted of buggery and gross indecency in the past is part of the government’s broader plan to apologize to all those LGBTQ people who suffered under unjust laws and policies, including those fired from the federal civil service and military during the postwar period right up to the early 1990s. Known as “the gay apology,” it is due to be delivered later today (November 28 2017).[2]

This is not the first time such an apology has been called for. Twenty-five years ago, in response to a journalistic exposé of the postwar purge of queer people from the civil service, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney told the House of Commons that the purge represented “a most regrettable incident,” but he stopped far short of offering an apology.[3] In 1998, Gary Kinsman, Patrizia Gentile and their team, in a preliminary report on their research into the government’s anti-queer national security campaign, called for an official state apology.[4] None was forthcoming from then-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. Two decades later, our pride-parade-loving prime minister with the rainbow socks has committed to making an official apology.

So why the gay apology now? [Continue Reading…]

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