An Official Apology to LGBTQ2 Canadians

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, what wonderful speeches from my friend from Repentigny and from all the other leaders and party representatives in the House.

I am honoured to speak today. I would like to thank our Prime Minister for the official apology he made today. He is a great man, and the day of heartfelt official apologies has finally come.

This is an important day, and I thank the Prime Minister, the Government of Canada, the member of Parliament for Edmonton Centre, the member of Parliament for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, and all those who have gone before, like Libby Davies and Svend Robinson, all of those in this place who recognized there has been a historic injustice, one that touched all aspects of the lives of our friends, brothers, sisters, parents, and cousins.

Throughout this society, people have suffered: the trailblazers, and we know them, those who first achieved equal marriage, the first same-sex couple to marry in British Columbia, my friends Tom Graff and Antony Porcino, and my friends and constituents, Robin Roberts and Diana Denny, whose fight was so deeply personal, so difficult, after being told they could not marry and raise their children together. However, today’s apology focuses on something in some ways that was even more brutal, no less personal, the drumming of people out of the jobs they earned because of their partners, the people they love.

I want to specifically say that I am very honoured that two of my constituents are here for this apology, Emma Smith and Mary Lou Williams, who were fine soldiers until the military discovered they loved each other. They ended up in military prison. People know how hard it is to go through the decision to tell their parents. The last thing they imagine is that the military police will tell them for them. They are brave and, like many in this room, we acknowledge and thank the We Demand an Apology Network, without which I think many of these people would have gone through years of feeling shame, feeling isolated, thinking it was only they.

Anyone who served with Emma would say she was the best soldier in that platoon. Canada not only punished, shamed, ostracized, and violated the civil and human rights of Canadians, we also deprived ourselves of excellent soldiers, terrific members of the RCMP, and people who would have been wonderful diplomats in our foreign service. Our stupidity, blindness, and ignorance punished our society while bringing grievous injustice and long-lasting pain to people who had done nothing wrong but want to serve their country, and this apology matters.

I think there are cynics among us who would say at one point that surely Canada’s government has apologized enough. We apologized for residential schools, we apologized for the Komagata Maru, and we will probably apologize for turning the St. Louis around in Halifax harbour, and we now apologize to the LGBTQ community, and somehow someone might wonder if apologies matter. I want to say clearly that I know they matter. They matter to the people who have suffered injustice, they matter to the families of those who have died and never got to hear this apology, they matter to all Canadians who know that we recognize that we have wronged our fellow citizens and that we will never do it again.

We have been here a while and this is an emotional thing, but it needs to be said that this is a wonderful moment for all those who are oppressed, wherever they are and for whatever reason. I think transgender people really need our support now. I lost a friend just in October. Dr. Susan Roddy took her own life. She was a wonderful mathematics professor at Brandon University in Manitoba. She was still suffering discrimination and injustice as a trans woman.

We are not there yet. We have not righted all of the wrongs, we have not eliminated all of the discrimination, but we stand here today and the quote that comes to mind is from a speech by Martin Luther King: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”