Prime Minister Trudeau attends the Gala Phénicia in Montréal
My dear friends, thank you for welcoming me among you tonight. What a pleasure, what an honour it is for me to join you in marking the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality,
Fifty years ago, my father’s actions were a major step towards a fairer, freer and more compassionate country than the one he knew. But tonight I think primarily of those who fought for our cause, I think about those who risked everything to love freely. This prize and recognition are for them because without their courage, their will and their perseverance, my father’s government would not have been able to reach this major milestone in the fight against homophobia. I’m sure of it. I would therefore like to take this moment to recognize all the work that they’ve accomplished.
The decriminalization of homosexuality marked a turning point in advancing the rights of the LGBTQ2 in Canada, but let’s be honest, the battle is still far from being won. Despite the passage of the act, discrimination, exclusion and even violence continued to be part of the daily lives of too many people. It might look great on paper to say that to love was no longer a crime, but the LGBTQ2 were still treated like criminals. The authorities continued to use other provisions in the Criminal Code to target the community, to justify police operations and mass arrests in public places where members of the community should have felt safe.
Homosexuality had been decriminalized in 1969, but the unjust treatment of LGBTQ2 people continued for decades.
Our government recognized this dark chapter in our history and gave official apologies to the community a little over a year ago. On that day, we also tabled a bill to permanently destroy the criminal files of Canadians who had been found guilty of having homosexual relations.
This really was an important moment for the community and our country, and this is the kind of positive change and continued hard work that our government will continue to support.
So tonight we are celebrating a decisive moment in our history; we are taking this moment to recognize how far we have come. We are remembering the courage of those who came before us and thanking them for making our country a better place for everyone. But we also have to take a good look at the world we are living in. We still have many challenges to overcome, mistakes to correct and, yes, laws to change.
We should never discriminate against anyone, for whom they love, what they say, or the religion they choose to practise. We still have challenges in our society to protect the rights of everyone.
And now it is up to us, to our generation, to our government to keep working with determination to build a country worthy of those who sacrificed so much over the years and through generations for the cause of equality. I know that is the best way to pay tribute to them.
Thank you very much, my friends.