Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise on this particular bill.
Today Canadians who were unjustly convicted because of who they love are one step closer to clearing their names and moving on with their lives. They were victims of past federal policies and practices that under no circumstances would hold up in Canada today. They were systematically discriminated against and demeaned, and they spent much of their lives with all the repercussions of a criminal record, unable, in some cases, to find work, or even travel with their families. They were made to feel as though they had committed a major crime, and they were made to feel as though their sexual orientation could determine whether or not they had a chance in life.
Many tried to fight their convictions and lost. Some waited decades for redress, and others nearly half a century. Tragically, some did not live to see this day.
Today we are sending all of them and their loved ones a clear message when we move this legislation forward: their country is deeply sorry. Their country was wrong. Their country wants to make amends and help their healing process.
I would like to take a moment today to thank all members, on both sides of the House, for their dedication to moving this bill forward. I would also like to thank all the activists and all those who have fought for more than 50 years and put themselves in danger to demand these changes over the past five decades.
We have accounted for these issues by adding the provision that in cases where court or police records are not available, sworn statements may be accepted as evidence.
Second, I would like to speak to some of the questions we have heard concerning bawdy house laws. To be clear, bawdy house laws were intended to capture a broad scope of acts deemed immoral at the time. What this bill would do is deal with charges under gross indecency, buggery, and anal intercourse, which were used under the Criminal Code to victimize LGBTQ2 people systematically. We have enumerated those in the schedule to make sure we are being precise and clear.
Some have raised questions about whether we are simply passing the legislation and then leaving the rest to the LGBTQ2 community. That would be a mischaracterization. Once the bill passes, the government will undertake a proactive outreach process for potential applicants to increase awareness of the initiative as well as the criteria and the application process.
The government will work closely with federal partners and stakeholders from the LGBTQ2 community to inform those applicants. We will not leave members of the LGBTQ2 community in the dark. We have set aside $4 million over two years to implement the process, and I am confident that the process will be sound, efficient, and effective.
The Parole Board, once applications are made, will determine, case by case, successful applications, and successful applicants will have their records of convictions permanently destroyed. The RCMP can then destroy any records of convictions it has in its custody, and it can direct other federal departments or agencies to do the same. The expungement order will then be communicated to other courts and police forces as appropriate.
The bill would also allow the Parole Board of Canada to refuse to issue expungements in certain circumstances. More information on the application process will soon be available to potential applicants. It will not be long after the bill receives royal assent that the Parole Board could begin accepting applications.
The suffering the LGBTQ2 community has endured will not be forgotten. The government will contribute a minimum of $15 million for projects to record and memorialize the tragedy of the past and the hope for the future. That includes a national monument here in Ottawa and an education package concerning discrimination against LGBTQ2 Canadians.
I am proud to stand behind the government's efforts to improve life for our LGBTQ2 community.
I invite my hon. colleagues to help eliminate discrimination and right the wrongs committed against the LGBTQ2 community by joining me in giving their full support to Bill C-66.
Before I end, let me say, on behalf of the Prime Minister, the House leader, and all of my colleagues on this side of the House, a very merry Christmas and happy new year to you, Mr. Speaker, and your family, to all parliamentarians and staff for their hard work, to the Clerk and all table officers, to all branches and services of the House administration, to all the families connected to the Houses of Parliament, and to all the loved ones present here today and those we remember because they are now in our prayers and no longer able to be with us. I wish the pages good luck in their exams, and may they have much success in their future endeavours.
Feliz Navidad, merry Christmas, and happy new year.
Merry Christmas to all and to everyone in this place.