November 28, 2017 / 8:43 PM / 17 days ago

Canada apologizes for persecution of gay public servants

OTTAWA, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized on Tuesday for a decades-long campaign by previous governments to rid the military and public service of homosexuals, calling the dark chapter in the country’s history a “collective shame.”

From the 1950s to the early 1990s, the Canadian government monitored and interrogated civil servants who were believed to be homosexual or transgender. Thousands in the public service, military and Royal Canadian Mounted Police were fired or intimidated into leaving their jobs.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Trudeau said the thinking that homosexuals would be at increased risk of blackmail by Canada’s adversaries was nothing short of a witch hunt.

“The government of Canada exercised its authority in a cruel and unjust manner,” Trudeau said, to a standing ovation from both sides of the House of Commons.

“It is with shame and sorrow and deep regret for the things we have done that I stand here today and say, we were wrong. We apologize. I am sorry. We are sorry,” Trudeau said.

The apology was the latest in a series of statements by the two-year-old Liberal government seeking to make amends for historical wrongs. Trudeau used a speech to the U.N. General Assembly in September to acknowledge Canada has failed its indigenous people.

Canada has also reached an agreement in principle with those involved in a class action lawsuit related to the government’s persecution of homosexuals, Trudeau said, though he did not say how much the settlement will be worth.

The government earlier on Tuesday also proposed legislation that will allow the criminal records of those convicted of sexual activity with same-sex partners to be permanently destroyed. (Reporting by Leah Schnurr; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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