The Debates on Decriminalization of Buggery

Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s 72-page 104-clause omnibus bill to reform the Criminal Code of Canada contained proposals to, amongst a multitude of things, decriminalize abortion, permit lotteries, ban publication of evidence at preliminary hearings at the request of the accused, legalize contraception, outlaw harassing phone-calls, mandate breathalyser tests, and legalize homosexual acts committed in private by consenting adults. 

Requests to split the bill were refused. 

The now defunct Quebec-based Ralliement Créditiste spear-headed a filibuster on the abortion and homosexuality provisions of the bill, labelling the bill communistic, socialistic, atheistic and a threat to Canada’s future. 

Much of the debate in the house focussed on battling the abortion provisions of the bill. However, there was considerable debate on the homosexual component. The following excerpts are from various commons debates regarding the latter.  


Mr.Walter C Carter (Progressive Conservative, St. Johns West, New Brunswick) 11 February 1969

Now, Mr. Speaker, what of the homosexual? He commands our sympathy in the same way that any human with some aberration commands our sympathy. But one of the salient feature about homosexuality and the real reason for its being anti-social is the compulsion to convert, to induce others into its practise. In those nations where homosexuality has raged unchecked conversion has been a major characteristic, to the point where generations of those unable to make a free choice have been compelled into unnatural practices.

This, of course, is not what we are legislating. What we are legislating is a kind of well mannered, sedate, controlled Canadian type of vice. Therefore, I am forced to vote against this bill because of the unavoidable conversion feature of this practice and because, while the bill does nothing to promote this aspect of the practice, it does nothing to control it.

Mr. Roland Godin (Ralliement Créditiste, Portneuf, Quebec) 11 February 1969 Commons Debates

With the amendment regarding homosexuality, we can expect weddings..

Mr. Arnold Peters (NDP: Timiskaming, Ontario) 11 February 1969

…all homosexual and lesbians with whom I came in contact were agreed that they were opposed to those who corrupted the young

Mr. Joseph Alfred Monograin (Liberal: Trois Rivieres, Quebec) 11 February 1969

… Acts of homosexuality which would cause scandal to a minor and which would lead to obscene exhibitions will still be punishable under the law

Mr. C. Terrence Murphy (Liberal: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario) 17 April 1969

Anyone who molests youngsters or commits an act in public will continue to be a criminal despite the present amendment. All this amendment would do …would be to legalize I think an act between consenting adults in private and between husband and wife in private. There is no reason that such an act should have been illegal in the first place.

Mr. James A McGrath (Progressive Conservative: St. John’s East, New Brunswick) 27 January 1969

So far as the amendments to the Criminal Code concerning permissive homosexuality between consenting adults are concerned, I could not care less. 

Mr. Gerard Laprise (Ralliement Créditiste: Abitibi, Quebec) 16 April 1969

Mr. Speaker, a few years ago, one such sexual pervert assaulted bys who objected to such perversions and he killed them. He murdered them to satisfy his lust. Such things occur too often, Mr. Speaker. Such sexual perverts are not satisfied with meeting other sexual perverts; too often they try by every astute means available to pervert boys and sometimes, they kill and pervert. By legalizing homosexuality such perverts are given full liberty.

Mr. Marcel Lambert (Progressive Conservative: Edmonton West, Alberta) 16 April 1969

We are not entering a period of permissiveness Mr. Speaker. No, this is licentiousness. This is not merely a permissive morality that is being introduced. This is open licence. 

Mr. Georges-J Valade (Liberal: Sainte-Marie, Quebec) 17 April 1969)

The minister knows very well or should know that when a male person takes adavantage of another male in private, proof of threat or fear is very difficult to establish. How could the minister protect persons subjected to assaults by an homosexual pervert or prostitute?

[Valade quotes from a letter of the Honourable Jean-Paul Deschatelets, Speaker of the Senate ]

To legalize homosexuality between adults means to popularize it wilfully, between adults as well as between adults and young people, as it will not be practical to check it, meaning that policemen have no right to intervene in such cases.

To vote for this hateful and degrading bill out of false principles, is to open the door wide to other legislation contrary to the indefeasible rights of man.

Mr. Lionel Beaudoin (Ralliement Créditiste, Richmond, Quebec) 17 April 1969

It is certainly sheer nonsense to pretend that taking away completely from the Criminal Code the offence attached to homosexuality will not lead to homosexual to commit similar acts with boys under 21.

Just like the previous speaker I feel that homosexuals are sick people and that sometimes they are unable to control their sexual impulse not only towards adults but also towards adolescents.

In my opinion the passing of that clause would mean that young people would be continually threatened by the unbridled instincts of those sexual perverts……The government presents this bill as a form of progress while it is a degrading measure.

Mr. John Gilbert (NDP: Broadview, Ontario) 17 April 1969

(Gilbert, a lawyer, resigned from parliament April 1978 when he was appointed judge to the District Court of Ontario, a position he retained until his retirement in 1993. He died August 2006. Bob Rae, future NDP premiere of Ontario and recent candidate for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada took the Broadview seat in the 16 October 1978 by-election)

Mr. Gilbert: The next problem is that of age. The age set forth in the bill is 21. The question of age is very difficult. At what age is a man to be regarded as an adult? Is it 16, 18, 21, 25 or possibly 30? Let us look at it. There are certain requirements with regard to determining the age at which a person becomes an adult. First, it is necessary to protect young and immature persons. Is a person at the age of 16 or 18 really able to stand on his own feet, or do we have to wait until he becomes 21? It is a rather difficult question. It differs from person to person, as the hon. member for York South (Mr. Lewis) said. But we all assume that at the age of 16 a person is still quite young and immature.

The second standard is the age at which a man’s sexual development can be said to be formed. Medical evidence, according to the Wolfenden report, indicated that there may be a stabilization period at the age of 16 in the sexual development of a person.

The third standard is the definition of an adult as a person responsible for his or her own actions. As we know, we consider a person 21 years of age or over legally able to enter into a binding contract.

The fourth aspect is the consequences which follow the fixing of a particular age. The Minister of Justice, in his wisdom, fixed the age of 21 quite arbitrarily, probably because it is the legal age of contractual res­ponsibility, and this may be the best possible age at which the maturity of a person is established. One would hesitate to say that a person is mature at the age of 16 or 18. There is greater possibility of that at the age of 21. These are the factors that have been taken into account by the minister, and I think he is to be commended for choosing the age of 21.

I could not help but smile when I heard some members of the Progressive Conserva­tive party trying to make a distinction between a person 21 years of age and a person 20 years, 11 months and 30 days of age. A person who is 21 years of age or over com­mits no offence, while a person under that age commits an offence. The same rule would apply if the age was fixed at 16 or 18. If we fixed the age at 18, a person 18 or over would not be guilty of an offence but a person 17 years, 11 months and 30 days of age would be guilty of an offence. The minister arbitrarily chose the age of 21, I assume, on the basis that it is the age of contractual responsibility and also a likely age at which young people reach a stage of mature judgment.

The function of the law is to safeguard those persons who need protection by reason of their youth or some mental defect. Homo­sexuals who tamper with young persons under 21 years of age should be considered criminals. It is also a function of the law to preserve public order and decency, and therefore homosexual behaviour which takes place in public should continue to be dealt with by the criminal law. Let us make no mistake about the fact that new section 149A deals with consenting adults over the age of 21 who commit sexual acts in private.

Mr. Rene Matte (Ralliement Créditiste: Champlain, Quebec) 21 April 1969

Less than 1% of homosexuals are truly sick while the rest are nothing more nor less than vicious people.

The younger ones are corrupted and raped by older ones. It is merely the decline in morality that accounts for the higher percentage of cases. If this house intends to legalize such acts when they are committed by persons 21 years of age and over then one must admit that it is legalizing vice…

Even though a number of kleptomaniacs are not responsible for their actions because they prompted to commit them by a morbid impulse, is it a r4eason for us to legalize theft for persons aged 21 years of age or over under the pretext they suffer from kleptomania.

That is exactly what we are doing with respect to homosexuality. We approve of indecent, even criminal acts. It is an indictable offence in that it leads youth astray, relaxes morals, brings about decadence, causes disorders and paves the way to anarchy.

Cliff Dowey (Progressive Conservative: Battle River, Alberta) 21 April 1969

The argument has been made that the homosexual must be protected from blackmail. Surely our young people also deserve protection. The urge of these people to convert young people to their ways is established. Let us not forget this.

Bernard Dumont (Ralliement Créditiste: Frontenac, Quebec) 21 April 1969

(reading into the record a letter to the member of Parliament (for Levis) from the Association of graduate nurses of Saint Henri, Levis constituency

As for homosexuals, it is possible some of them are suffering from mental illness which the state must detect and cure, but it is not the majority. You know quite well, the more the law will be permissive in that respect, the more corrupters there will be who will endeavour to take our youth along the road to perdition and moral depravity.