The Canadian government will apologize to thousands of citizens who were forced out of military and public service during a decades-old ‘LGBT purge’.
Canadian MP and special advisor to the PM on LGBTI issues, Randy Boissonnault, said in a statement: ‘We are committed to apologize in an inclusive and meaningful manner before the end of 2017.’
The apology is expected to be issued in the fall and could also include pardons or financial compensation for those affected by the government’s actions.
Purge had its roots in the Cold War
The military ‘purge’ started during the Cold War, when officials believed LGBTI servicemen and women were ‘weak, unreliable and potentially disloyal,’ according to CBC News.
They even used a device called the ‘Fruit Machine’, which was developed to detect homosexuality, though it could never successfully discern a difference between heterosexuals and LGBTI members of the service.
The last recorded purge on record took place almost two decades after Canada decriminalized homosexuality in 1969.
LGBTI community suing for damages, too
Douglas Elliot, a lawyer and gay rights activist, told the Guardian that hundreds of people have joined a class-action lawsuit for damages caused by the purge.
He said: ‘It was a brutal, senseless, wasteful, harsh and cruel campaign for which the government should abjectly apologise.’
The lawsuit will continue whether or not an apology is issued, he said.
‘I really am mystified as to why it’s taking so long … I think its been very well-intentioned, but there’s been a lot of overpromising and underdelivery so far,’ he added.
Douglas said the most important thing was issuing an apology while the service members affected by the purge are still alive.
He said: ‘The reality is that a lot of the people who were affected by these obnoxious laws are already dead.’
Other countries have issued similar apologies
Canada has long held off on issuing an apology to its LGBTI servicemen and women, but other nations have begun to do just that for people convicted under anti-homosexuality laws that have since been revoked.
But Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has made it clear he’s a supporter of LGBTI rights — he is the first serving Canadian PM to take part in an LGBTI pride parade and he issued this tweet on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia:
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) May 17, 2017