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Trudeau to apologize to LGBT community for government "purge" and criminalization

Thousands of former military members and public servants fired over their sexual orientation are expected to receive compensation

by Tamara Khandaker
Nov 20 2017, 2:35pm

A long-awaited apology to LGBT people who were criminally charged or fired from their government jobs because of their sexual orientation will be delivered by the Canadian government next week.

“On November 28, the Government will offer a formal apology to LGBTQ2 Canadians in the House – for the persecution & injustices they have suffered, and to advance together on the path to equality & inclusion,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed on Sunday on Twitter.

Some form of financial compensation is also expected to be offered following a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of those who were either fired or pressured to quit the military or their public service jobs because they were gay or lesbian.

Over four decades, starting in the 1950s, the government fired thousands of people from the military, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the civil service in what’s come to be known by many LGBT people as “the purge.” It was an attempt to get rid of closeted gays and lesbians who government officials felt were vulnerable to foreign intimidation and blackmail because of their sexual orientation. In the midst of the Cold War, members of LGBT community were also believed to be generally sympathetic to Communists.

To ‘scientifically’ determine someone’s sexual orientation, the government began using a series of homosexuality tests developed by a Carleton University professor that the RCMP dubbed the “fruit machine.” They would test human subjects for involuntary biological responses, like pulse rates, skin reflexes, breathing rates and whether or not pupils would dilate in response to photos the government thought would arouse gay people.

Douglas Elliott, who is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, was unavailable for comment, but told VICE News he was in negotiations with the government.

“No deal yet,” he wrote in an email.

Elliott told the Globe and Mail on Sunday that the government had invited people who were victims to come to Ottawa. The compensation will be subject to an overall limit, but Elliott did not disclose what it would be. He believes thousands of former public servants could be eligible for compensation but could not cite an exact figure.

The government is also expected to apologize to people who were convicted for committing homosexual acts, which were considered a crime in Canada until 1969. Officials plan to offer pardons and also to expunge the criminal records of convicted people.

By the end of 2017, the Liberals will introduce legislation to expunge the criminal record of anyone who was convicted of consensual activity with same sex partners, Edmonton MP Randy Boissonnault, the government’s advisor on LGBTQ2 issues, told the CBC earlier this month.

The NDP has also been calling for the government to reverse the dishonourable discharges for people who were kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation, who they say should receive the pension they would’ve been entitled to had their discharges been deemed honourable.

Boissonnault said he expects dishonourable discharge discussions to happen within the context of the class action lawsuit.

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