Apology to gay, lesbian Canadians kicked out of public service, military coming by 2019

Click to play video: 'Former LGBTQ military members demand apology from Ottawa'
Former LGBTQ military members demand apology from Ottawa
Former LGBTQ military members are demanding an apology from Ottawa. Vassy Kapelos reports. – Apr 4, 2017

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s special advisor on LGBTQ issues says gay and lesbian Canadians purged from the military and public service because of their sexuality can expect an apology from the government by the end of its mandate in 2019.

“It’s certainly something that’s going to happen in this mandate,” Randy Boissonnault told Global News in an interview.

“I know the community is impatient.”

And perhaps understandably so. One of the groups representing those purged — the “We Demand an Apology Network” — has been asking for an apology on behalf of its members since 2015.

The year before, the NDP also introduced a motion asking the government to formally apologize.

Though the defence minister at the time, Jason Kenney, said he would study the motion, ultimately both requests fell on deaf ears.

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Researchers with the network estimate thousands of LGBTQ Canadians were 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.”

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When the Liberals were elected, members of the group say they were told an apology would come sooner rather than later, but a year and half later, they’re still waiting.

“People are getting more and more frustrated and more angry,” the group’s spokesperson, Gary Kinsman, said.

“We’re talking about thousands of people, we’re talking about people who are getting older, many of whom have already died and the government continues to delay.”

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Many of those purged from the military grew so tired of waiting they decided to turn to the courts. In November, class action lawsuits were filed against the Trudeau government in Ontario and Quebec. A month later, another came in Nova Scotia.

READ MORE: Ottawa ‘considering’ apology for gay Canadians purged from military, public service

It appears the lawsuits are affecting the apology process. Global News filed an access to information request last year to find out why the apology was taking so long, but earlier this month the Privy Council Office refused our request citing “solicitor-client privilege.”

Asked if the lawsuits are further delaying or preventing an apology, Boissonnault insisted they weren’t.

“There’s no hesitation,” he said. “That’s a parallel process to the work that I’m doing.”

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