Former Canadian Forces members say they were kicked out for being gay, ask government for apology
WATCH: From the early 1960s to the 1990s, hundreds — if not thousands — of gay and lesbian Mounties and soldiers were interrogated, spied on and fired for what the government called a “character weakness. Vassy Kapelos reports.
Darl Wood says she was “purged” from the military 37 years ago for being gay and the memories of what she went through are still vivid.
“I was young and idealistic. It sounds naive, but I went into the military just wanting to serve my country,” she said.
Wood said she had been working for three years when she was called into her boss’ office and ‘accused’ of being a lesbian.
“I was then taken into custody by the special investigation unit, where I was interrogated for hours and hours,” she said. “Two men railed me about my sex life, they wanted to know how, who, when, where and what we did in the privacy of our home and bedroom.”
Wood is part of the newly-formed We Demand an Apology network. Members of the group were in Ottawa Tuesday to band with the opposition and demand a formal apology from the government for the way they say they were treated.
“You stole the best years of my life…I ask that I finally be heard,” Wood said.
Researchers say Wood is one of hundreds, if not thousands, of gay and lesbian Canadians kicked out of the military and other national security agencies beginning in the 1950s because their homosexuality was seen as a weakness that could make them vulnerable to the “enemy.”
Victims claim the RCMP even used what was known as a “fruit machine” to identify gay members among the rank and file.
The test allegedly measured heart rates as officers were shown pornography.
Last year the NDP introduced a motion asking the government to formally apologize and correct the record, but there isn’t time in this parliamentary session to vote on the motion.
NDP MP Randall Garrison insists the government can still act.
“There’s nothing to prevent government ministers at this time from stepping up and doing the right thing, at the very minimum there should be an apology to those who were hounded out of public life,” Garrison said.
Defence Minister Jason Kenney said he will study the motion.
“The Canadian Armed Forces are one of the most diverse in the world and have included gay and lesbian Canadians in the Canadian Armed Forces for well over two decades,” Kenney said.
Tanya LeBlanc, a spokesperson for the department of national defence, said it would be inappropriate to comment on the NDP’s motion because it’s before Parliament, but said the Canadian Forces would abide by any decision of Parliament on the matter.
“The Department of National Defence (DND) and the CAF are committed to the principles of equality and dignity. These principles apply to all CAF personnel,” LeBlanc said in an email. “It is the current policy of the CAF that any member who can contribute to the operational effectiveness of a unit, military occupation, or duty assignment is both eligible for and liable for such unrestricted employment.”
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