A call for action this Remembrance Day: rectifying the injustices of the LGBT Purge

By Brian Prairie, President of the Métis Nation of Ontario Veterans’ Council

This Remembrance Day, as we come together to pay tribute to the sacrifices of our courageous veterans, we are called to action. We must take further steps to raise awareness and confront a dark chapter in Canadian history – the “LGBT Purge” that unjustly targeted people based on their sexual orientation.

Between the 1950s and the 1990s, the lives of 2SLGBTQ+ service members were forever altered as they had to end their service prematurely due to reasons like harassment and interrogation. Motivated by misplaced fears during the Cold War, the Canadian government and military wrongly labelled being 2SLGBTQ+ as a character defect and a security risk. This led to a cruel campaign of investigations, coerced confessions, and heart-wrenching dismissals. Regrettably, many of those impacted left the military without “honourable” status, leading to the forfeiture of essential military benefits and the recognition that was rightfully deserved.

It was not until 2017 that the Canadian government officially acknowledged the grave injustice of the LGBT Purge. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apology marked a pivotal moment in the journey towards justice and reconciliation. In that same year, a $145-million settlement provided restitution for lost or denied benefits, offering some solace for the pain endured.

Métis Nation of Ontario citizen Todd Ross, alongside fellow survivors Martine Roy and Alida Satalic, led a successful class action lawsuit against Canada. Their unwavering determination resulted in acknowledgment, compensation, and the creation of the Canada Pride Citation – a personal recognition for class members who served Canada and faced hardships due to this unjust policy.

This story is a testament to the indomitable human spirit in the face of adversity. Ross, Roy and Satalic, along with other survivors of the LGBT Purge including Métis veteran Lynne Gouliquer, epitomize the resilience and valour that defines our veteran community. Their efforts have paved the way for acknowledgment, compensation, and the beginning of reconciliation. While progress has been made, there is more work to be done – and it must be urgently prioritized.

The Métis Nation of Ontario Veterans’ Council firmly asserts that it is the duty of the Government of Canada and Canadian Armed Forces to proactively secure the honourable status of affected veterans. While veterans now have the option to retroactively seek this status, the Government must step forward and reach out directly, alleviating the burden of seeking redress on their own. We have been working diligently with Veterans Affairs Canada and organizations like Rainbow Veterans of Canada to see this happen.

In 2020, Canada announced a national monument in Ottawa as part of the settlement agreement. Made possible by reallocating funds designated for LGBT Purge survivors who have since passed away, the monument is set for completion in 2025. Celebrating the resilience and inclusivity of 2SLGBTQ+ individuals, the monument features a vibrant park and a striking thunderhead sculpture. Positioned near the Ottawa River and the Judicial Precinct, it serves as a powerful symbol of progress, healing, and the ongoing fight for rights.

As we reflect on the sacrifices made on November 11, let us draw strength from this challenging period, forging ahead with hope and determination. Let us honour those who stood against discrimination and commit to a future of respect for all.