Initiative on P.E.I. to help expunge convictions related to homosexuality

·3 min read
The Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act was brought in 2018 as part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's apology to LGBT Canadians in 2017 for past acts of discrimination by the authorities. (Jane Robertson/CBC - image credit)
The Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act was brought in 2018 as part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's apology to LGBT Canadians in 2017 for past acts of discrimination by the authorities. (Jane Robertson/CBC - image credit)

The John Howard Society of P.E.I. is working with Pride P.E.I. on a new initiative called the LGBTQ+ Pardon Project.

It will help some people who have had criminal records related to homosexuality.

Prior to 1969, homosexuality was criminalized under different offences including gross indecency and buggery.

"Homosexuality was illegal in a variety of formats and they could come at you in a variety of different ways," said Dave Stewart, vice-chair and director with Pride P.E.I. "So many people lost their jobs, people had to leave their homes."

Sweeping changes to the Criminal Code introduced in 1969 decriminalized sexual activity between men over the age of 21 in a private settings.

Jane Robertson/CBC
Jane Robertson/CBC

The Government of Canada passed The Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act in 2018.

This would allow people with those records, as well as their spouses, parents, siblings, children or legal representatives to apply for record expungement on their behalf.

Expungement is different from a pardon or record suspension — because it leads to the individual being deemed to have never been convicted of the offence in the first place.

With an estimated 9,000 historical records of convictions for gross indecency, buggery and anal intercourse in RCMP databases, records show there has been very few applications to have those records expunged.

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC
Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

Conor Mullin, president of the board of directors of the John Howard Society of P.E.I., said they don't know how many people on P.E.I. may have those convictions, but said they are willing to help.

"We're open to helping out anyone that we hear from, whether they be from P.E.I., the Maritimes or all over Canada," Mullin said. "We're here, and we're ready to help if we can."

Getting the word out about the possibility of having records expunged is the first step, Mullin said.

It was an important issue, he said, to have the society work with Pride P.E.I. to try and help as many people affected as possible.

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC
Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

The society plans to assist determining if the eligibility criteria is met, assist with gathering documents and filling out forms.

"Most of the people who would be directly affected by this maybe have, or probably have, unfortunately passed away since that time" Mullin said.

"But the Act allows for the loved ones of people who are directly affected, can apply posthumously for a pardon on their behalf."

Pride P.E.I. is working to get the word out so that a historical injustice can be corrected.

"There's so much shame associated in the past with a lot of this stuff, some people may have hidden their criminal charges," said Stewart.

"Some families may have, you know, dismissed it or kept it as a secret when there's no need to. I would ask those people to regain their dignity and come forward and help put this to bed as best we can."

More from CBC P.E.I.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting