Tag Archives: Pierre Elliot Trudeau

Countdown: 2 months to May 14th!

The Calgary Gay History Project is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada with a special event at the New Central Library.

In November 1967, Everett Klippert was sentenced to incarceration for life for being gay by the Supreme Court of Canada. This prompted a very famous quote from then Justice Minister, Pierre Trudeau.

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December 1967: “Take this thing on homosexuality, I think the view we take here is that there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation, and I think what’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code.” Source: CBC (click to watch video).

On April 16, 1969, as Prime Minister, Trudeau presented the Criminal Law Amendment Act, (Bill C-150) in the House of Commons. The bill proposed to decriminalize homosexuality and allow abortion and contraception, along with other new regulatory measures on a number of less controversial issues. Debate raged in the House. The tone was rancorous and some Members of Parliament (MPs) were particularly shocking in their remarks.

For example, Calgary MP Eldon Wooliams said: “I do not want to have this kind of debauchery in our nation. I think there is a place for a filibuster. If people tell me to get on with the job, I will say to them: ‘Do you want me to legalize sexual intercourse with the animals of Canada?”

Bill C-150’s third reading passed on May 14th, specifically altering the crimes of gross indecency and buggery in private between two consenting adults aged 21 or older. Thus began a new chapter for the gay rights movement in Canada.

We intend to honour this consequential day in Canadian history! Planning has begun for a special event at the Central Library from 6:30 – 7:45 PM! We are designing an evening which promises to be full of history, theatre, and art. We are also seeking input and participation: if you have an idea for the evening program email us.

Celebrate Freedom: see you on May 14th!

{KA}

Klippert Month – Finale

In exactly one week (November 7th) we will have arrived at the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court verdict in Klippert v. The Queen. In the ruling, Everett George Klippert was declared a dangerous sexual offender for having consensual gay sex. It was confirmed that he should be incarcerated for life to protect both himself and Canadian society.

In this final of four posts, I would like to explore the role of Canadian media in bringing his case forward to the court of public opinion. Newspapers across the country gave the Klippert case a good airing with the bulk of editorials condemning the decision.

In fact Pierre Trudeau’s famous quote:

“Take this thing on homosexuality, I think the view we take here is that there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation, and I think what’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code.”

was a borrowed phrase from the Globe and Mail’s editorialist Martin O’Malley. (Trudeau thanked O’Malley for the quotation.)

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Pierre Trudeau’s 1967 media scrum with the “bedrooms” quote. Click to watch. Source: CBC Archives.

Sidney Katz, who had researched and written about the gay community extensively, wrote a notable column in the Toronto Star titled: “Gentle George Klippert – must he serve LIFE?” His second article quoted the dismayed reactions of many Toronto homosexuals.

The Winnipeg Free Press editorialized: “It is possible to deplore such activity without treating its practitioners as if they were monsters.” Even the Calgary Albertan (now the Calgary Sun) opined that “the spectre of a possible life sentence seems to us a little severe.”

The only big city newspaper in Canada to react in support of the decision was the Edmonton Journal whose position was against homosexual law reform citing its belief in the tendency of homosexuals to prey on the young.

The Montreal Gazette described Klippert “as the most publicized homosexual in history.”

The irony, of course, is that Everett was quickly forgotten and languished in jail for four more years. Even today, people remember Pierre Trudeau’s famous quote but do not connect it to homosexuality and its decriminalization. Many are shocked to learn that homosexuals were ever prosecuted in Canada in the first place.

Everett Klippert became a symbol of injustice and the trigger for law reform in Canada. Despite his life story being featured in every daily newspaper of note, he was not a subject of the nation’s mercy. Not really.

The point of Klippert month was to remember the person: not just the court case; not just the symbol; and not just the political wedge issue he represented in 1967.

He was a Calgarian.

He enjoyed work.

He was honest to a fault.

He had a family who loved him.

And he was gay.

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Everett George Klippert. Source: Family Photo.

{KA}

Offensive MPs in 1969 – is there a lesson here?

There are 76 (and possibly a few more) countries where homosexuality is illegal in 2014.  One can keep track of developments in these countries by following Erasing 76 Crimes, which reports on the status of their anti-gay laws and their human toll.  In the most egregious cases, politicians harp on about protecting society, particularly youth, from gay wickedness – often from a religious rhetorical bent.

76+ countries where homosexuality is illegal

76+ countries where homosexuality is illegal

The rhetoric of our own politicians 45 years ago was strikingly similar.  What exactly was our strategy that allowed us to move forward in Canada?  We need to learn and share that recipe with queer activists everywhere.

The Trudeau Government’s, Omnibus Bill C-150, the Criminal Law Amendment, Act, was brought to the House of Commons on April 16, 1969.  This bill which passed third reading in May that year, proposed to decriminalize homosexuality, and allow abortion and contraception, along with other new regulatory measures on a number of less dramatic issues.

In the debate that raged for the next three days in the House of Commons, here are some samples of what was said by opposition Members of Parliament (MPs):

“I do not want to have this kind of debauchery in our nation.  I think there is a place for a filibuster.  If people tell me to get on with the job, I will say to them: ‘Do you want me to legalize sexual intercourse with the animals of Canada?” – Eldon Wooliams (Progressive Conservative (PC), Calgary North MP)”

Homosexuals are mostly inclined to pervert youngsters and the Minister opens the door ever wider…  Instead of voting legislation to help homosexuals cure themselves, since they are really sick, the way is cleared for them to act more freely.” – Martial Asselin (PC, Charlevoix MP)

“Once you legalize a disease you must legalize all others.  That would be, Mr. Speaker, something utterly ridiculous.” – Rene Matte (Créditistes party, Champlain MP)

“We are bringing the morals and values of skid row into the salons and drawing rooms of the nation…  We are reversing completely values and traditions which have been the foundation stone upon which our western Christian civilization has been established.” – Walter Dinsdale (PC, Brandon-Souris MP)

“We live in an age that more and more is becoming a permissive age.  Some say there is no God – that each man should be able to live his own life as he will as long as he does in private.  I do not find any support for that philosophy in the scriptures…  the Government is saying to the young people of this country: ‘You are in a new age, you are over 20.’ A lad asked me how homosexuality worked and I said, ‘You will have to consult with the Government.'” – John Diefenbaker (Former PC Prime Minister and Prince Albert MP)

In some of those 76 countries, it all sounds kind of current, doesn’t it?

{KA}