Vancouver councillor calls Trudeau’s apology a ‘breakthrough’ for LGBTQ2+ community

Councillor Tim Stevenson said 10 years ago he would have never imagined the government apologizing


Reported by Perrin Grauer 

Following an apology to LGBTQ2+ Canadians by prime minister Trudeau on Tuesday, Vancouver city councillor Tim Stevenson said it’s a breakthrough for the community.

“I have been out for about 40 years and I couldn’t even imagine 10 years ago that the government would be apologizing,” said Stevenson to The Voice. “We weren’t even thinking about the apology. We were just thinking about getting our basic rights.”

‘We were wrong, we apologize, I am sorry, we are sorry”

Trudeau apologized on behalf of federal agencies to LGBTQ2+ public servants who were intentionally purged from the 1950’s to 1990’s, some even being charged with sexual deviancy in criminal courts.

“I stand here today and say we were wrong, we apologize, I am sorry, we are sorry,” said Trudeau in the House of Commons.

Stevenson, who became Canada’s first openly gay cabinet minister in 2000 was invited to attend the formal apology but couldn’t make due to a council meeting on housing strategy. His spouse, Gary Paterson, was in the House of Commons during the speech and is part of the advisory committee who helped Trudeau craft the apology.

Anne Nickerson, director of equal opportunity employment with the City of Vancouver, said the prime minister’s apology was a crucial acknowledgment that the work of undoing injustice and providing equal rights for all communities was being taken seriously at the highest levels of government.

“Diversity exists, but inclusion is created… and we’re never done,” Nickerson said.  “There’s always more that can be done, and more that we can learn from. We may not be perfect by any means, but we’re working on it.”

What’s next?

Gavin Somers, program coordinator for the LGBTQ2+ advocacy group Out in School, was more ambivalent about the significance of Trudeau’s apology. Out in School provides education and support for youth and communities around LGBTQ2+ communities in B.C.

“I think an apology is a great place to start and a necessary one,” Somers said. “What is always ever more important is, what are the measures that are followed up with that apology.”

Their concern is that a policy change won’t go far enough towards creating more than simple tolerance of difference in diverse communities. Somers said in addition to having policy a social shift is also needed.

“Having funding that supports programs around how to create empathy for LGBTQ2+ community members, alongside having those histories taught in schools, so we can see ourselves as queer folk, as trans folk, as two-spirit folk represented in the curriculum and how it’s taught,” Somers said.

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