Everett Klippert: A Fight for Justice
On August 16, 1965, Pine Point RCMP detained Everett George Klippert – a mechanic’s helper at the Pine Point lead-zinc mine – to question him about arson in the community. Klippert was known to the police as a homosexual, which at the time was a criminal offence in Canada. While the police were able to establish that Klippert had nothing to do with the arson, the intense and prolonged questioning uncovered details of his sex life. The police decided to charge Klippert with gross indecency under section 149 of the Criminal Code. This charge was to have profound repercussions for human rights in Canada.
Judge John H. Sissons of the Territorial Court of the Northwest Territories heard the charges and found Everett George Klippert guilty. Sissons took an unusually hard stance and declared Klippert a dangerous sexual offender and sentenced him to “preventive detention.” Klippert faced the prospect of spending the rest of his life in jail simply for being homosexual.
Klippert’s conviction was considered by many to be cruel and unusual, and Klippert’s sister Leah appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Court dismissed the appeal in a controversial 3-2 decision, which prompted Pierre Elliot Trudeau, then Minister of Justice, to state, 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. When it becomes public, this is a different matter….”
The late 1960s and early 1970s were times of intense debate concerning the decriminalization of homosexuality. Bud Orange, the Member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories, stood up for Klippert. Canadians responded by sending hundreds of letters. Some were supportive, but many were ugly, abusive, and threatening. Klippert’s case has been studied and analyzed over the years. Scholars have argued that he was not a dangerous sexual offender; his sexual activities were not predatory, and his sexual partners were always consenting adults.
It was mainly through publicity and debate surrounding cases like Klippert’s that the Criminal Code was finally changed in 1969. Yet even with these changes, Everett George Klippert wasn’t released from the Prince Albert maximum security penitentiary until mid-1971, having served almost five years for his sexual orientation. He passed away in 1996 at the age of 70. It was not until 2020 that Kilppert’s criminal record was expunged by the Government of Canada.