This week on RETROactive, we are grateful to guest writer, Kevin Allen, for sharing the story of Everett Klippert.
Everett George Klippert, a Calgary bus driver, was the last person in Canada to be arrested, charged, prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned for homosexuality. The Canadian decriminalization of homosexuality was a direct result of the Klippert case.
In his court proceedings, Klippert stated that he had actively engaged in homosexual activity when he started work in a Calgary dairy at the age of 16 or 17; and had continued being active until he was found out and arrested by Calgary Police in 1960. Klippert hardly defended himself. He cooperated with his captors in order to avoid scandal and was sentenced to four years in the penitentiary.
Upon his release in 1964, Klippert felt his continued presence in Calgary brought shame to his family, so he moved to Pine Point, Northwest Territories where he secured a job as a mechanic’s helper. On August 15, 1965, the local RCMP officer brought in Klippert for questioning about an arson case and quizzed him about his sex life. According to Klippert, he was told that unless he pleaded guilty to homosexuality, he would be charged with arson. Consequently, Klippert admitted to having had consensual homosexual sex with four more men. He was subsequently arrested and charged again with gross indecency and sentenced to three more years in prison.
Three months into his prison sentence, he was given official notice that the Crown was proceeding to have him declared “a dangerous sexual offender.” A court-ordered psychiatrist assessed the mild-mannered Klippert as “incurably homosexual,” and he was sentenced to preventive detention – indefinitely.
Everett’s sister Leah worked as a legal secretary in the offices of J. D. Salmon, Solicitor for the City of Calgary. It was she who kept writing Everett’s legal correspondence, engaging lawyers, and appealing his court verdicts as unjust: ultimately pushing his case to the Supreme Court of Canada. His appeal at the Supreme Court was dismissed in a controversial 3-2 decision on November 7, 1967. [See the judgment: here.]
Upon the verdict, The Globe and Mail declared, “it is strange to the point of being unbelievable that conduct in Britain, which would not even bring a criminal charge, can, in Canada, send a man to prison for life.”
The Supreme Court decision was also the source of Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s, then the Minister of Justice’s, famous quote, in a media scrum outside the House of Commons on December 21, 1967:
“Take this thing on homosexuality, I think the view we take here is that there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation, and I think what’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code.”
The Winnipeg Free Press editorialized: “It is possible to deplore such activity without treating its practitioners as if they were monsters.” Even the Calgary Albertan (now the Calgary Sun) wrote, “the spectre of a possible life sentence seems to us a little severe.” The only big city newspaper in Canada to react in support of the decision was the Edmonton Journal whose position was against homosexual law reform, citing its belief in the tendency of homosexuals to prey on the young.
Trudeau, as Prime Minister, presented the Criminal Law Amendment Act, (Bill C-150), which, among other things, decriminalized homosexual acts between consenting adults in the summer of 1969. Police from across the country were opposed to the change. Calgary Police Chief, Ken McIver, said the new law represented a decay in Canadian society. He described homosexuality as “a horrible, vicious and terrible thing. We do not need it in this country.”
On July 27, 2018, the Calgary Police Service formally apologized to Calgary’s gender and sexually diverse community. In their official statement, they cited their historic opposition to Bill C-150 and said: “after the law changed, our organization struggled to embrace the new direction and evolve.”
Everett Klippert was an unlucky man and an unlikely Canadian martyr. Tragically, he remained in prison until July 21, 1971, whereupon he was released. From then on, he lived a quiet, unassuming life, eschewing public notice. He died of kidney disease in 1996 at the age of 69.
Written By: Kevin Allen, Research Lead, Calgary Gay History Project (https://calgaryqueerhistory.ca/)
Kevin’s research was supported, in part, by an Alberta Historical Resources Foundation (AHRF) grant. For a list of AHRF grants and how to apply, click this link: https://www.alberta.ca/alberta-historical-resources-foundation.aspx
Calgary Pride Week is taking place from August 24 to September 3, 2018 – see the website for a listing of events, including a history booth at Pride in the Park on September 2nd!