Canada Decriminalizes Homosexual Acts Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Amendments to the Canadian criminal code legalized private sexual acts, including same-gender sexual acts, between consenting adults over the age of twenty-one.

Summary of Event

On August 24, 1965, Everett George Klippert, of Pine Point, Northwest Territories, was sentenced to three years in prison for “gross indecency” Indecency;and Canadian law[Canadian law] for sexual acts committed with other men in private. The following year, Klippert was declared a “dangerous sexual offender,” subject to incarceration indefinitely. He appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, Supreme Court, Canadian;homosexual acts but the appeal was rejected on November 7, 1967. The case nevertheless spawned extensive commentary critical of laws making homosexual acts a crime. [kw]Canada Decriminalizes Homosexual Acts (Aug. 26, 1969) [kw]Decriminalizes Homosexual Acts, Canada (Aug. 26, 1969) [kw]Homosexual Acts, Canada Decriminalizes (Aug. 26, 1969) Canada;homosexuality legalized Civil rights;Canada Homosexuality;and Canadian law[Canadian law] [c]Laws, acts, and legal history;Aug. 26, 1969: Canada Decriminalizes Homosexual Acts[0750] [c]Civil rights;Aug. 26, 1969: Canada Decriminalizes Homosexual Acts[0750] [c]Crime;Aug. 26, 1969: Canada Decriminalizes Homosexual Acts[0750] Klippert, Everett George Trudeau, Pierre

The month after Klippert lost his appeal, Pierre Trudeau, Trudeau, Pierre then the federal minister of justice, introduced a sexual offenses reform bill. Sexual offenses reform, Canada Although this bill had been expected, it was Trudeau’s charisma that gave the proposed bill a sense of being up-to-date. After introducing the legislation, which most famously relaxed penalties for sexual acts by two consenting adults in private, Trudeau said, “The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.” These reforms were included in the 1969 omnibus criminal reform bill, C-150, which was passed on May 14.

It is debatable if the Klippert affair had any bearing on Trudeau’s decision, as much as it was likely that Trudeau wanted to drag Canada, fresh from celebrating its centenary but still socially backward in some respects, into the dynamic era that was the latter part of the twentieth century. Still, Trudeau, as justice minister, could not have been unaware of Klippert’s case. One of the justices in the Klippert case said that laws regarding homosexuality needed clarification and that, in any case, it was not the court’s intention to keep gays in jail indefinitely, detention that had been legal at the time. Trudeau was asked in the House of Commons, on November 7, 1967, about the arbitrary nature of preventive detention measures, a clear reference to Klippert. The question was ruled out of order, and Trudeau did not reply. The next day, however, he did gesture to legal amendments that might be pursued in the Ouimet committee on penal reform. (Klippert was not paroled until July 20, 1971.) C-150 was introduced in the House of Commons on December 21.

Significance

Not unlike the Sexual Offences Bill of 1967 in the United Kingdom, Canada’s C-150 had little to say on homosexuality but did declare that gross indecency and buggery were not criminal if done in private by two consenting persons age twenty-one years or older. More than two people made such acts public and, thus, illegal. Buggery and gross indecency remained on the books, and they were still crimes; they applied to homosexual acts except when committed by two consenting adults in private.

In June of the following year, an antigay campaign took special aim against Trudeau in the run-up to the June 25, 1968, general election. A number of ultraconservative groups called Trudeau a “beast of Sodom.” He was elected prime minister anyway. In the same year, the Canadian Bar Association and a research group at Toronto’s Clarke Institute of Psychiatry both recommended that gross indecency, as set out in C-150, required closer definition. The bill was debated in the house from April 16 to May 14, 1969, and then easily passed in a 149 to 55 vote on May 14. Bill C-150 went into effect on August 26, 1969.

This legislative victory for Canada’s progressive, civil rights movement contrasted sharply with a better-known happening south of the Canadian border. On the night of June 27, 1969, the New York Police Department launched a bar raid on Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn, inciting an uprising that is now widely considered to be the genesis of the modern gay and lesbian rights movement. Canada;homosexuality legalized Civil rights;Canada Homosexuality;and Canadian law[Canadian law]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lahey, Kathleen A. Are We “Persons” Yet? Law and Sexuality in Canada. Buffalo, N.Y.: University of Toronto Press, 1999.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">MacDougall, Bruce. Queer Judgements: Homosexuality, Expression, and the Courts in Canada. Buffalo, N.Y.: University of Toronto Press, 2000.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">McLeod, Donald W. Lesbian and Gay Liberation in Canada: A Selected Annotated Chronology, 1964-1975. Toronto, Ont.: ECW Press/Homewood Books, 1996.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Miller, Neil. Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present. New York: Vintage Books, 1995.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Pedersen, Lyn. “Germany, Canada Pass ’Consenting Adults’ Laws.” The Advocate, June, 1969, 3.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Smith, Miriam. Lesbian and Gay Rights in Canada: Social Movements and Equality Seeking, 1971-1999. Buffalo, N.Y.: University of Toronto Press, 1999.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Warner, Tom. Never Going Back: A History of Queer Activism in Canada. Buffalo, N.Y.: University of Toronto Press, 2002.

1885: United Kingdom Criminalizes “Gross Indecency”

1972-1973: Local Governments Pass Antidiscrimination Laws

August, 1973: American Bar Association Calls for Repeal of Laws Against Consensual Sex

November 17, 1975: U.S. Supreme Court Rules in “Crimes Against Nature” Case

December 19, 1977: Quebec Includes Lesbians and Gays in Its Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms

June 2, 1980: Canadian Gay Postal Workers Secure Union Protections

1986: Bowers v. Hardwick Upholds State Sodomy Laws

January 1, 1988: Canada Decriminalizes Sex Practices Between Consenting Adults

December 30, 1991-February 22, 1993: Canada Grants Asylum Based on Sexual Orientation

April 27, 1992: Canadian Government Antigay Campaign Is Revealed

October, 1992: Canadian Military Lifts Its Ban on Gays and Lesbians

April 2, 1998: Canadian Supreme Court Reverses Gay Academic’s Firing

June 17, 2003, and July 19, 2005: Canada Legalizes Same-Gender Marriage

June 26, 2003: U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Texas Sodomy Law

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