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.)
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.