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Overdue pardons

Justin Trudeau announces plans to pardon Canadians arrested under homophobic laws. But they've still not followed through on their other commitments to the LGBTQ community.

Justin Trudeau announces plans to pardon LGBTQ Canadians arrested under homophobic laws

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his government would introduce legislation to quash the convictions of Canadians convicted under outdated, and mostly-repealed, laws that discriminated against queer people.

Trudeau made the announcement at a ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, where he raised the pride and transgender pride flags.

Discriminatory sections of Canadian law, coupled with homophobia in Canada’s police services, resulted in scores of criminal convictions for LGBTQ Canadians. Many still live with those convictions.

“We are moving forward on legislation that makes it possible to erase the convictions of Canadians who were unjustly convicted of a crime – simply for who they were, or who they loved,” Trudeau told a small crowd. He did not provide details of the legislation, only to say it would come later this year.

Yet the latest move, which had been promised more than a year ago, comes as some of Trudeau’s other promises have been delayed or neglected.

It was more a year ago that his government introduced legislation to repeal sections of the Criminal Code that prohibited anal sex — part of the code that had long been declared unconstitutional by several courts.

That piece of legislation, C-32, was introduced last November, and never came up for debate. Then, in March, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould introduced new legislation to clean up the Criminal Code that included repealing that section of the Criminal Code — effectively making C-32 moot. That bill, similarly, has not come up for debate thus far, and likely won’t before the Summer recess.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office couldn’t offer explanation for why the long-awaited initiative had been delayed.

And while Trudeau has consistently trumpeted his government’s work on LGBTQ issues, he has said very little about another platform commitment that his government was quick to break: Ending the “discriminatory” ban on blood donations for men-who-have-sex-with-men, which has primarily affected gay men.

Last June, Ottawa softened the blood ban, implementing a requirement that men must be celibate for a year prior to donating blood. $3 million in funding to study the efficacy of the ban has yet to result in any movement.

One piece of government legislation that did become a priority, bill C-16, is now in the Senate, but has been delayed by the Conservative Party in that chamber since the beginning of 2017. The legislation would expand human rights and hate crime protections to transgender Canadians. It could become law as soon as this week, but only after nearly six month of delays in the Senate that continued into this week.

This all hasn’t stopped the Liberals from asking for money from the LGBTQ community.

Trudeau repeated his commitment to advancing LGBTQ rights abroad on Wednesday, but has done little in terms of action or policy.

When asked directly about prioritizing LGBTQ refugees from Chechnya, in light of a government-sponsored campaign that has killed or disappeared scores of queer individuals, the government has refused to answer.

This all hasn’t stopped the Liberals from asking for money from the LGBTQ community, however. The party has sent at least 11 fundraising emails specifically mentioning their work on the file since being elected government.

Cover: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

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