President Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany has asked for forgiveness for decades of suffering and injustice towards gay men during the Nazi era and after World War Two. The president spoke at a ceremony marking the persecution of gays by the Hitler regime when thousands were placed in concentration camps, humiliated, beaten and executed. This has been well-documented.
Steinmeier said that the harsh treatment continued in post-war era, in both West and East Germany, where being gay remained a criminal offense for years. He said that “this is why I’m asking for forgiveness today, for all the suffering and injustice, and the silence that followed.” He emphasized that “all gays, lesbians and bisexuals, all queers, trans and intersexual” are protected in today’s Germany.
Not many governments have issued such statements and with each apology a huge step is taken for the purpose of reconciliation. Canada’s Liberal Government also apologized to the LGBTQ+ community. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood in the Canadian Parliament, flanked by his Ministers, Members of Parliament and the opposition parties, tearfully made it known that there is no place for discrimination in this country.
Yes, indeed, but it continues, regardless of apologies and profound statements. The constant bickering in the House of Commons, provincial Legislatures and other venues, we hardly hear a word of how we may deal with the on-going problems of blatant discrimination. We loudly hear the complaints from all sides regarding the waste of our revenues of investing in pipe lines and countless other concerns. Not a word of how to combat discrimination.
Our politicians tend to ignore, or simply cannot be bothered with an issue they feel will take care of itself. Apologies matter but let me assure readers that if the issue is not addressed by our governments, saying sorry means little if not followed by sincere efforts to work towards eradicating this horrendous situation. LGBTQ+ folks are harassed, beaten and yes, even killed on occasion in our own country.
We must continue to pressure those in charge to alter the laws so that complete protection is available to our citizens. Words are easy to say and sound so inclusive, yet not followed up with concrete action. Anti-LGBTQ+ politicians in Canada are hard at work to discredit these citizens. The likes of Premier Doug Ford of Ontario, and Alberta Conservative leader Jason Kenney, are prime examples of leaders who have vocalized discriminatory statements. If our politicians are not on side, we stand little to gain and protection from such individuals is not at hand.
One will not find Kenney, Ford or Andrew Scheer in a Pride parade, nor will one in the near future. Scheer has already said he will not take part, and Ford and Kenney openly discriminate and so opportunities to be inclusive lessen. One problem that has surfaced is that once an apology has been established, not one statement has been made public to assure us that the work continues to counteract discrimination.
A Special Advisor on LGBTQ+ issues was appointed by Mr. Trudeau and the LGBTQ+ community was elated. No follow-ups and no further announcements. Perhaps before the next election will we hear more words, and hopefully further positive action will follow. Canada’s LGBTQ+ population has much to celebrate and our fortunes must be appreciated. We are not finished by any stretch of the imagination and continued raising awareness is a must. I urge our community to make politicians produce platforms during election time and demand action on lessening discrimination, in turn reduce the harassments, beatings and LGBTQ+ teens suicides which are at an all-time high, only surpassed by Indigenous youths. We still have the distinction of being one of the world leaders in human rights.
Gerard Veldhoven is a former Amherst resident who is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears weekly in the Amherst News. Comments and information: firstname.lastname@example.org.