07/31/2018 17:59 EDT | Updated 08/01/2018 09:51 EDT

Everett Klippert, Last Man Jailed In Canada For Being Gay, Changed LGBTQ History

But most young people haven't heard of him.


Most young Canadians know Pierre Elliott Trudeau's famous 1967 quote, "There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation."

But they probably don't realize the then soon-to-be prime minister was talking about a Calgary bus driver named Everett Klippert.

Klippert was the last man in Canada jailed simply for being gay, and he spent more than a decade total behind bars. The high-profile case prompted Trudeau, who was justice minister at the time, to introduce in the omnibus bill that eventually decriminalized same-sex sexual activity between two people over age 21 in Canada in 1969.

Klippert's case changed the trajectory for the queer community in Canada, yet a lot of young people have never heard of him. But the people behind a new documentary released Tuesday hope to change that.

"I don't think we have a full realization of persecution that occurred within our lifetimes and also that one person ... can make a huge difference," Laura O'Grady, the director of "Gross Indecency: The Everett Klippert Story" told HuffPost Canada in a phone interview.

Earlier on HuffPost Canada:

"We've come so far so, so, fast that there are lessons for us in this history, even today," Kevin Allen, historian and research lead at the Calgary Gay History Project, also told HuffPost Canada in a phone interview.

The documentary tells Klippert's story through Allen's perspective as he tries to understand Klippert and his place in LGBTQ history. It was released on TELUS Optik TV On Demand and on the STORYHIVE YouTube channel.

Kevin Allen/Klippert family
A photo of Everett Klippert shown in the documentary, "Gross Indecency," which examines the life of Klippert, the last man to be jailed in Canada for being gay.

Klippert was born in 1926. After a lover's father complained to the Calgary police, Klippert was charged with 18 counts of gross indecency and given a four-year jail sentence, Allen explains in the documentary. Klippert was 34. After his release and feeling a lot of shame, he took a job in Pine Point, N.W.T.

He was questioned by RCMP in a local arson case, and while he was cleared in that investigation, Klippert did confess to having to having sex with four men, Allen said. Klippert was convicted of four counts of gross indecency in 1965 and sent to jail again.

He wasn't released until 1971, two years after Trudeau's bill passed. In 2016, current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave Klippert a full pardon. And last week, Calgary police issued a formal apology to LGBTQ people for "things we did in the past."

Barry Philp/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Pierre Elliott Trudeau during the 1968 Liberal leadership campaign

"His story changed the trajectory for the queer community in Canada," Allen said in the documentary.

Allen wouldn't call Klippert an unsung hero, as Klippert eschewed the attention he received, but more of an "unsung martyr," Allen said in his interview with HuffPost Canada.

"It's an important story that most Canadians have forgotten about."

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