The first Canadian law condemning homosexuality came into force in 1841. At the time, such a crime was punishable by death. That sentence was later mitigated to imprisonment, for lengths of time that varied over the years.
In 1890, a new crime was introduced: gross indecency between male persons. In 1953, that crime was extended to lesbians and heterosexuals. It justified the repression of LGBTQ2+ people over decades to come.
Homosexuality remained a crime in Canada until 1969, and anyone caught in violation risked being sent to jail. In that regard, it is understandable that LGBTQ2+ people would have felt the need to live in secret.
In 1967, Liberal Federal Minister of Justice Pierre Elliott Trudeau wanted to adapt the Criminal Code to Canadian values. He tabled an omnibus bill containing a number of provisions that would decriminalize certain sexual practices (gross indecency, sodomy) between consenting adults age 21 and over. He summed up his bill in a sentence that has since become famous:
There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.
On May 14, 1969, Bill C-150 (Bill C-195 on the day of its first reading, on December 21, 1967) was adopted by a vote of 149 (119 Liberal, 18 New Democratic Party, 12 Progressive Conservative Party of Canada) against 55 (43 Progressive Conservative PC, 11 Creditists, 1 Liberal). The Act received Royal Assent on June 27 that same year.
1965 – Everett George Klippert, a mechanic from the Northwest Territories, was the last person in Canada to be imprisoned because of his homosexuality. He was arrested for gross indecency. The outcry prompted by that arrest was one of the triggers that started the movement to decriminalize homosexuality.
Many talk about partial decriminalization because the Act, although it decriminalized sexual relations between same-sex people, continued to feature inequities in terms the age of consent for anal relations (21 years, whereas for vaginal relations it is 14 years). Now, fifty years later, the Government of Canada is getting ready to correct these inequities with its Bill C-75.
Despite its shortcomings, the law corresponded to a vision of a progressive Canada’s intention to promote human rights, and constituted a first step towards equality for the LGBTQ2+ community.`
Many refer to 1969 as year one of the emergence and recognition of LGBTQ2+ people, who gradually started coming out and openly identifying themselves as such.
This was a busy time, with a strong push for social change and advancement of civil liberties. The LGBTQ2+ community and its allies found their voice during this era, and later started organizing to demonstrate and demand a freer and more equal society.
Canada recognizes sexual orientation as grounds for claiming refugee status. A refugee claim can be made to the department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
In order to fully grasp the significance of this progressive legislation adopted in 1969, it is important to look at the global situation. According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), in 2019, 50 years after the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada, at least 70 countries around the world still treat homosexuality as a crime. The punishment for that crime ranges from death to imprisonment, depending on the country.
Canada supports the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people around the world. For additional information .