Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure and it is a great privilege and honour to stand in this place and speak on behalf of this legislation.
For those who may be watching and are wondering what we are doing on the last day before we rise for the December adjournment, we are debating Bill C-66, an act to establish a procedure for expunging certain historically unjust convictions and to make related amendments to other acts.
This enactment would create a procedure for expunging certain historically unjust convictions and provides for the destruction or removal of the judicial records of those convictions from federal repositories and systems.
This enactment would provide an application for an expungement order that might be made for respective convictions involving consensual sexual activity between same-sex persons related to the offences of gross indecency, buggery, and anal intercourse.
The enactment provides that the Governor in Council may add certain offences to the schedule and establish criteria that must be satisfied for expungement of a conviction to be ordered.
What does that mean?
I would like to translate what that means and why this legislation is so important to somebody who is a Calgarian. As a Calgary MP, I just want to take a moment and talk about him, because he and many others are the reason why this legislation needs to occur in the first place and “him” of course is Everett Klippert.
I want to thank Kevin Allen, a Calgarian, who has been working on absolutely important work. It is called the Calgary Gay History Project. He is writing a history of this topic in Calgary and he has been doing it for many years. He was very helpful in the consultation that I undertook on this particular issue. This is from him:
Despite homosexuality being a criminal offence in 1960s Canada, and [Klippert's] multiple convictions of gross indecency, he was always frank and truthful in his interactions with the state, even though he paid a severe penalty for that honesty.
When Calgary Police questioned him about the 18 names in his little black book, which was also his dating record, he confessed to having had homosexual relations with them all.
In Pine Point, NWT, local RCMP brought Klippert in for questioning and threatened him with an arson charge of which he was innocent. Using it as leverage to open Klippert up about his sex life, he readily confessed to having had intimate relations with four men there.
In every court case, he pled guilty. A court psychiatrist reported that Klippert told him his “homosexual behaviour had existed since the age of 15; that to him homosexual activity [was] his only satisfactory sexual outlet. He found the thought of heterosexual conduct abhorrent. He told me that he never had heterosexual relations.”
Gay activist and lawyer Douglas Saunders interviewed the incarcerated Klippert in December 1967 in what he described as “the fortress-like Penitentiary at Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.” His unjust treatment gave his convictions a certain resolve. Klippert told Saunders: “If I meet someone on the outside now and he asks me, I'll say sure I'm a homosexual, what are you? I'm not going to be ashamed of it anymore.”
Klippert who grew up Christian took comfort in his prison bible and noted Psalm 22:24 to Saunders: “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”
This man should not have been incarcerated. I do not know what more to say than that. This legislation is important because it would reverse that. I cannot imagine. I read John Ibbitson's piece on him. He noted how his family was reluctant to talk because they did not want to have to revictimize him posthumously.
I am really glad that we are pushing this legislation through the House of Commons, because one of the things that I stand behind in my party and in our policies declaration is a belief in the equality of all Canadians. It is right there.
Every once in a while as Canadians we really have to think about what equality means. It is a beautiful thing for me to be able, generations after Mr. Klippert, to think that there is no situation in which my government would persecute me based on who I love or what I do in my personal life.
Can members imagine what the people who are subject to this bill had to go through? The stories that I heard when I went through the consultation for the apology were the antithesis of what equality means. I heard from someone whose lesbian partner at that point in time was actually physically hauled out of her house for questioning on allegations of her sexual preference. There was the “fruit machine”. I have had people write into my office and say, “the government is spending so much on this apology”. We spent a lot of taxpayer dollars back then persecuting people. We spent a lot of taxpayer dollars developing a “fruit machine”. That is a dark point in Canada's history. If we are going to stand up and talk about equality, there cannot be partisan differences. It just should be something that we all accept, and that is why this bill is important.
For people who had to go through a criminal conviction or suffered employment loss or anything that gave them a record based on whom they love, that is not equality, that is not Canadian, that is a violation of human rights. If we stand here as Canadians and talk about how we comport ourselves in international relations when we demand other countries to behave certain ways, we had better be getting it right at home, consistently, all the time.
What this bill is trying to do, in its spirit, is a no-brainer. I appreciate that my colleagues are bringing up technical points. I know that my colleagues within our party have brought up some technical points too. My colleague across the way acknowledged that this is the first time, I believe, that expungement happened. We are, in good faith, believing that this bill will do what it is intended to do. There will be time to hold the government to account on that, certainly. I am very pleased to be here today to say that there is no question that this should happen. I want to be very clear about that. From the bottom of my heart and from the depth of my soul, if we want to believe in the equality of all Canadians, no Canadian should have a criminal record for loving somebody. It is really as simple as that.
It is really cool to be able to stand up and support this bill, and I think it is really cool that this bill has all parties' support. It is something that Canada can celebrate internationally. I encourage individuals who have questions or concerns about this bill to really have a hard think about the rights that they have as Canadians, to really have a hard think about what equality means for them. If we do not make everybody equal, we have lost what it means to be Canadian. Whom one loves should not be a question of equality. There should not be historical or current criminal penalties for that. There should not be discrimination against that. It is just wrong.
To you, Mr. Speaker, and for all of my colleagues in this House, it is fantastic and pretty cool that we are debating something of such importance as we rise for Christmas break. Every once in a while, we do something here that resembles work. Because I am not sure anyone has ever done this in the House before, I am going to quote RuPaul, “If you can't love yourself how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”