Gay Saunas, Abortion… The List of “Unfair” Condemnations of the Past Grows
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino at a press conference in Ottawa.
Canadians who had been convicted of a number of offenses that are no longer in the Criminal Code, such as being in a gay sauna or having an abortion, can now have those convictions removed from their criminal records.
The list of convictions constituting historical injustices is expanded to include a series of charges dating back to 1892 and aimed primarily at the LGBTQ community and women.
Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino said at a press conference on Tuesday that these offenses unfortunately lead to the stigmatization and marginalization of people, and deprive them of a sense of belonging because of their sexual orientation or gender.
The government says police have historically used certain counts of indecency to carry out actual, often high-profile raids on bathhouses and gay bars. These establishments were then considered safe spaces for members of the LGBTQ community, the government said in a statement.
Between 1968 and 2004, there were approximately 38 police raids on bathhouses and 2SLGBTQI+ nightclubs across Canada, says a government brief published in the Canada Gazette.
The Criminal Code defined until 2019 a bawdy-house as a place which is kept or occupied, or frequented by one or more persons, for the purpose of prostitution or for the practice of acts of indecency. . However, police have used the indecency aspect of the provisions in the past to prejudicially target bathhouses, gay bars and swingers' clubs, the government says.
As a result of the raids, the persons who were owners, employees or patrons of these premises were charged under the bawdy-house provisions of the Criminal Code.
In 2017, the City of Montreal and its Police Department apologized to the LGBTQ+ community for the police raids carried out in gay bars and saunas in the metropolis in the 1960s and until the 1990s.
In addition, some laws, now repealed, also targeted women who had procured their own abortions or were trying to obtain one. Charges also targeted doctors, nurses and midwives who provided this service. Erase these offenses from their criminal record. Family members or trustees may also apply posthumously on behalf of the deceased.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police's National Criminal Records Index contains 18,597 records related to bawdy houses and indecent acts, as well as 67 abortion-related convictions.
But given the historic nature of the convictions, it is unclear how many people will ask to have their records expunged. The Parole Board estimates that it will process approximately 2,500 applications.
We are undertaking this analysis so that we can roll it out as quickly as possible, said Mr. Mendicino said on Tuesday. The government is looking for ways to reduce barriers to make it easier for people to erase their records. This procedure is absolutely free and the minister said officials will help people navigate the system.
Minister Mendicino also indicated on Tuesday that the idea of cash-based transactions had stigmatized sex workers for too long and that the idea of debarment should also be considered in these cases.