As the first country in North America to allow same-sex marriage, Canada is typically seen as a haven for LGBTQ+ individuals. Compared to many parts of the world, Canada truly is. But it wasn’t always like that.
From the 1940s into the 80s, Canada specifically targeted queer people working in the military or the public sector.
Queer Canadians working in the Canadian Armed Forces, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or any branch of federal public service were targeted, harassed, and many were fired from their positions solely for being a sexual minority.
Described as a “purge,” the federal government saw queer Canadians in public service roles as deceitful and liable to blackmail. Ultimately, queer Canadians were deemed untrustworthy and unfit to serve their country, simply for being a sexual minority.
Thousands of queer Canadians were fired, discharged, or demoted in the decades this queer witch-hunt went on for.
The Huffington Post has a harrowing tale of one Canadian naval officer who was spied on and harassed by the federal government, forced to come out as gay while being interrogated. It’s a grim tale and you’d be shocked to know it happened on Canadian soil.
But now the federal government is finally owning up to its misdeeds and wrongful action against the LGBTQ+ people of Canada.
The Trudeau government has promised a formal apology, made by the Prime Minister himself, by the end of 2017.
The government is creating an advisory council to write the apology. Who will make up the membership of the advisory council is expected to be announced in the coming days.
Some advocates, however, want more than just a apology. The government needs to destroy all records of investigations into queer Canadians and go public with any formal government documents that called for the surveillance and firing of LGBTQ+ public service workers.
None of this will correct the wrongs enacted upon queer Canadians who had to suffer through this dark period of Canada’s history, but an apology is worth something.
At the least, having Trudeau own up to the government’s past mistakes demonstrates goodwill towards Canada’s queer communities while also pointing out a period of time where being a sexual minority in this country wasn’t easy.
To move forward, Canada needs to acknowledge its past, and this formal apology is one step towards the greater goal of a truly accepting country.