Justin Trudeau has apologized for decades of persecution against gay and bisexual Canadians.
The Canadian prime minister, speaking at the House of Commons in Ottawa Tuesday, atoned for "Canada’s role in the systemic oppression, criminalization, and violence" caused by a discriminatory government program, reports The New York Times.
Over the span of more than 30 years, tens of thousands serving in the military, public service, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were fired, prosecuted, or imprisoned due to their sexual orientation.
The policy of targeting gays and lesbians began in the 1950s, as a means of identifying those who might be susceptible to blackmail by the Soviet Union. It lasted until 1992 and ruined many lives.
In addition to destroying livelihoods, some of the female "gay purge" victims claim to have been raped, under the belief it would turn them straight. Others were believed to have committed suicide as a response to the policy.
"It is with shame and sorrow and deep regret for the things we have done that I stand here today and say: We were wrong,” Trudeau said at the House of Commons. "It is my hope that in talking about these injustices, vowing to never repeat them, and acting to right these wrongs, we can begin to heal," he added.
The Canadian government has allotted a total of 110 million Canadian dollars, or 85 million U.S. dollars, toward compensating the victims of the "gay purge." Those who suffered mental or physical harm may claim an additional 150,000 Canadian dollars.
Moreover, 15 million Canadian dollars will be used to honor the dead in the form of memorials, as well as education about LGBT history and persecution. A national monument to the victims is to be constructed in the Canadian capital.
LGBT activists praised Canada's response to the crimes of its past, which is unprecedented in world history. R. Douglas Elliott, the head legal representative of the lawsuit's plaintiffs in the lawsuit, called it "something we can be extremely proud of in Canada."
"At a time when America is going backward and trying to reintroduce discrimination, we are moving forward and facing this historic injustice, making reparations to the victims and an unshakable commitment that this discrimination will never be repeated," he said.