Earlier this week, Canada took a huge step in the struggle for acceptance and equality for all LGBTQ2+ people. Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, took to the stage at the Canadian House of Commons on Tuesday, Nov. 28, to formally apologize to all members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit community for all of the suffering they have endured throughout the history of the country and to instill in them a sense of hope for a more welcoming future. This speech, while seen as bold and inspiring by many citizens, has also been accused of pushing the limits and taking it too far by some of Trudeau’s conservative counterparts. However, this was a message that needed to be heard by the people of Canada and should be admired by them and by the rest of the world.
Canada’s history of discrimination and oppression of the LGBTQ2 community is similar to America’s in both its length and content. Like America, Canada has in the past had a ban on LGBTQ2 people participating in the military, did not allow gay marriage and could arrest people solely based on their sexuality. Also much like America, these laws have since been abolished throughout the nations. However, that does not mean that there is nationwide acceptance in either of these countries, or in any country for that matter, towards LGBTQ2+ citizens. Canada, while being a fairly progressive nation in terms of its laws regarding this population, has still had its fair share of issues in getting equality throughout the country.
In his speech, Trudeau addresses this history and acknowledged the “state-sponsored, systemic oppression and rejection” that the LGBTQ2+ community has had to endure throughout its long history in Canada, specifically referencing the “gay purge” that these people endured for over 30 years in the country. Beginning in the 1950s, people in the LGBTQ2+ community were fired from jobs, prosecuted, or put in jail for their sexual orientation, in addition to the extreme ostracization from society they endured due to the program. Many were also questioned regarding ties to the Soviet Union when this program was first implemented and some have reported other physical and sexual forms of assault they underwent as a result of this government initiative.
Trudeau’s dialogue addressed all of these facts and more, comprehensively and succinctly apologizing for all of the past wrongdoing in the Canadian government, additionally promising compensation to the people who were harmed by this heinous past. However, to some this was not enough, with criticism landing on the Prime Minister’s colleagues, also guilty of this oppression, who did not back him up.
While, of course, words are just words, and the words of one man may not seem to represent an entire government, this sincere apology and plea to do better is an action that is so rare to find these days. Having a leader that can look back on past mistakes and say that they would like to progress past these wrongdoings and faults is just the first step in building a more accepting and open future, which Justin Trudeau is proving to do. Trudeau is showing through his actions that he understands that he and is country are not perfect and that they have a long way to go, but he is also showing the world that he is willing to put in the effort to make the country better for its entire population.
Justin Trudeau’s speech is something that every person and every country needs to take note of. In fighting for the rights of all Canadians, regardless of their sexual orientation, Trudeau is teaching Canada and the rest of the world that to be a better country, we need to embrace diversity. He is asking his people to promote differences in a time when most want to keep their differences out of sight, in order to prevent history from repeating itself. Most importantly, he is showing his people how you must recognize your mistakes and never be too proud to apologize for your past failures. Coming from a country that could greatly use a lesson in all of these messages, Justin Trudeau is the leader that not only Canada needs, but the whole world needs right now.
Emma Hungaski is the associate opinion editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.