Over three and a half centuries ago, in Québec City in 1648, a boy drummer in the military was convicted of “convictus crimine pessimo,” which means “convicted for the crime of the worst kind.” That was a euphemism for committing a homosexual act. Indeed, in Canada homoerotic practices were penalized under the law up until 1969.
By Mathieu Perron
This change is very recent in Canadian and Québec history. Let’s take a trip through the past to better understand the present:
AIDS Causes Terror
Despite the advances of the 1970s, the 1980s began on a down note. The AIDS crisis intensified. So did stigmatization, because the virus struck the gay community especially hard.
Since 1977, men having sex with men have been barred from giving blood to the Canadian Red Cross.
On February 5th, 1981, Toronto police arrested about 300 men in raids on four bathhouses. The next night, 3,000 marchers took to the streets to protest. Toronto’s Lesbian and Gay Pride Day was celebrated for the first time in June of that year, and 1,500 people attended. The event was copied in cities across Canada, including Montréal and Québec City.
The Constitution was repatriated from Great Britain in 1982, and in 1985 the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect. Article 15 of the Charter states: “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.” But the Charter did not protect Canadians discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. The fight continued.
In 1992 the Federal Court ended the exclusion of gays and lesbians from serving in the armed forces. Two years later, a Supreme Court decision said that those seeking asylum in Canada could base their claim on persecution because of their sexual orientation.
In 1995 same sex couples in Ontario were allowed to adopt a child. The next year, sexual orientation was added to the Canadian Human Rights Act.
In 1999, The Supreme Court declared that same sex couples have the same rights as opposite sex couples.
In 2002, Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice stated that forbidding same-sex marriage is an infringement of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On April 1st, 2004, Québec’s first same-sex marriage was celebrated.
These newly-won rights helped define how gays and lesbians live in society.
On July 20th 2005, Bill C-38 was passed: Canada became the fourth nation on the planet to authorize same-sex marriages.
The Present and the Future
The 2010 decade opened up with new demands, especially by transsexuals and people questioning their sexuality. In 2017, Bill C-16 added gender identity and sexual expression to those against whom it is illegal to discriminate against under the Canadian Human Rights Act. The Criminal Code was changed accordingly. The Québec Charter and provincial human rights laws now also explicitly include gender identity.
Other causes concerning the rights of gays and lesbians are still unresolved. We’ll end by mentioning LGBT conversion therapy, still legal in several provinces, including Québec. Things are far better, but there is still much to be done.