Madam Speaker, it is an honour to speak to Bill C-77.
In November of 2017, the Prime Minister rose in the House to issue a formal apology to members of Canada's LGBTQ2 community for historic injustices inflicted upon them in this country.
Today I am proud to rise in this chamber to speak about the steps our government continues to take, through Bill C-77, to protect this community. First, I wish to offer some historical context so that we can all understand why this aspect of Bill C-77 is so fundamentally important.
Canada has a history of policies, practices and federal legislation that led to the oppression of and discrimination against LGBTQ2 people in our country. Consenting adults were charged, prosecuted, persecuted and punished for engaging in same-sex relationships. From the 1950s and for nearly 40 years straight, the Government of Canada undertook a systemic campaign to persecute employees who were, or were suspected of, being members of the LGBTQ2 community. Instead of being respected and appreciated for their public service, they were fired, discharged or bullied into resigning through a campaign that became known as “the purge”. It is a shame on our history.
In the Canadian Armed Forces, treatment of LGBTQ2 members was no better. From 1967 until 1992, the Canadian Armed Forces policy on homosexuals was contained in Canadian Forces administrative order 19-20, an order that reflected the government's policy of the time.
The CFAO and other discriminatory policies prohibited the recruitment or retention of homosexuals in the public service, the RCMP and the military. During that dark period, Canadian Armed Forces members were spied on, interrogated and persecuted by their brothers and sisters in arms and those who led them, and by the very institutions to which they had dedicated their lives, namely, this Parliament.
Friends were encouraged to spy on one another and turn on each other for the grave crime of doing nothing more than loving who they loved. They were treated with terrible indignity and then they were forced out of the Canadian Armed Forces and stripped of their ranks, their life's work and their futures as members of the military. Most notable of all is that so many members of the LGBTQ2 community chose to hide their true identities so that they could serve the country, despite its great intolerance and rejection of them.
We ask members of our Canadian Armed Forces to put service before self. So many in the LGBTQ2 community have modelled that ethos, demonstrating incredible selflessness and tremendous bravery along the way. Today, we are working hard to make reparations for the harms that were inflicted on members of this community.
An LGBTQ2 class action final settlement agreement includes recognition measures, broad-based reconciliation and memorialization of measures for the Canadian Armed Forces, RCMP members and other government employees affected by discriminatory policies. It also includes measures for individual compensation.
Upon request by affected members, a Canada Pride Citation and a letter of apology will be awarded to them by the Canadian Armed Forces. Also, upon request by an affected member, a note may also be added to the file of any former member who was investigated, sanctioned or released to make it clear that the release was the result of wrongful policy by the government or the forces.
We know that no apology or reparation can undo the damage by these abhorrent policies. However, it does not discharge us from the fundamental responsibility to do everything in our power to turn things around and make sure such injustices are never committed again in our country.
Today, LGBTQ2 Canadian Armed Forces members have the same rights as any other Canadian Armed Forces members to work in a harassment-free workplace and to be treated with dignity and respect. Since taking office, we have taken concrete and sincere steps to end harassment in federal workplaces.
Going forward, we are going to ensure our approach to harassment is victim-centric and that those who experience harassment have the support they need. Our mission here is nothing less than culture change. We owe it to our men and women in uniform to get this right.
The defence policy “Strong, Secure, Engaged” reaffirms the Canadian Armed Forces commitment to increasing and promoting diversity and inclusion among its personnel. Many policies and initiatives have indeed been implemented to make this commitment a reality. The defence team has appointed diversity champions, for example. They have also worked towards integrating gender-based analysis-plus into all defence activities, from the design and implementation of programs and services that support our personnel, to equipment procurement and operational planning.
In January of last year, the forces implemented a positive space initiative in support of LGBTQ2 members. The intention is to foster the creation of a safe and inclusive work environment for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. It is a volunteer and peer-based support group for all LGBTQ2 community members and allies to allow them to create networks and seek information and assistance from positive space ambassadors.
The promotion of diversity and inclusion is a core institutional value that is supported through leadership, communications and activities at all bases, wings and across the organization. The defence team has been working through initiatives, like the positive space initiative, to help create inclusive work environments that really value everyone involved, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
Many of those efforts mirror those that have been made by our government more broadly, and this is where we circle back to the bill before us today. In June 2017, our government added gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Bill C-77 will bring the military justice system into alignment with aspects of the civilian criminal justice system, specifically section 718.2 of the Criminal Code.
Let me be clear about what these changes mean. Bill C-77 calls for increased sentences for service offences and increased sanctions for service infractions when there is evidence that they are motivated by bias, hate or prejudice based on gender expression or identity. Targeting people for their gender expression or identity is especially egregious. There is simply no room in Canada for that kind of hatred. We are proud that Bill C-77 reflects that fundamental value.
This focus on deterring crimes based in hate for those whose gender expression or identity differ from our own is just one more step in significant progress the forces has made in changing its culture to one of greater inclusivity and diversity. These changes will help the Canadian Armed Forces ensure it remains an institution based on honour, honesty and integrity. In that sense, the gender expression and identity clause of Bill C-77 is very much aligned with the military ethos as well.
In closing, I am proud of the work the Government of Canada has done to right historic wrongs against the LGBTQ2 community, something that folks in London have called for for a long time. I am glad to see our government put these changes into place. I am proud of the work the Canadian Armed Forces is doing to build a diverse and inclusive military for all Canadians. I am proud to stand today to highlight a small but essential inclusion in Bill C-77, which makes clear our steadfast belief that there is no room in Canada or in our military for such discrimination ever again.