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Once upon a time, it was believed that those who identified as homosexual were security risks. In fact, it was also believed that those people who were homosexual were criminals - a belief that wasn't put to rest until 1992 in Canada, when homosexuality was decriminalized. The DSM - widely considered a "bible" of sorts for psychologists and psychotherapists regarding mental disorders and conditions - even listed homosexuality in one form or another until 1987. Now, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau is hoping to extend an apology to Canadian military personnel who may have been affected by what CTV News has termed a "gay purge." The only problem is, there's no clear indication as to how many have been affected by it.
Various inquiries to the Canadian Department of Defence, which included a request through the Access to Information Act, revealed that applications to join the Canadian military between 1969, when homosexuality was decriminalized, and 1992, when restrictions on those who identified as LGBTQ were lifted on those who served in the military, did not include information about a person's sexual orientation. That makes trying to determine exactly who may have been "forced out" as a result of their sexual orientation even more challenging.
There is currently a class action lawsuit brewing that relates to any military personnel or members of other federal agencies who may have been "investigated, discharged, terminated, sanctioned or faced threat of sanction" by the government after June 27, 1969 because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. June 27, 1969 was chosen as the date for the lawsuit because prior to that, homosexuality was deemed a crime, thereby allowing government officials to terminate individuals based on the fact that they broke the law.
The Canadian military issued Canadian Forces Administrative Order 19-20, "Homosexuality -- Sexual Abnormality Investigation, Medical Examination and Disposal," which formally banned gay people from serving, in 1967. Any personnel who suspected a colleague was gay needed to report their suspicions to a commanding officer. In 1988, the requirement to report suspicions to a superior was lifted, and dismissal of LGBTQ personnel was no longer automatic. However, promotions, security clearances and transfers were denied.
Todd Ross, one of the lead plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit, joined the military at 18 in 1987. He eventually came under investigation by the military police and ultimately admitted to being gay while attached to a polygraph, a process which has been deemed "traumatic" by Ross' lawyers.
43 Canadian Forces service members were released under Canadian Forces Administrative Order 19-20 between January 1985 and January 1988, and it was also disclosed that between January 1988 and October 1992, when the policies on homosexuals were revoked, 47 members were affected. Numbers prior to 1985 were not available.
It is now suggested that military archives may have to be searched in order to determine the exact number of military members affected by this "gay purge," given that the military does not appear to be certain of who might have been affected without an Access to Information search. However, the military is currently investigating who may have been affected in order to ensure that Prime Minister Trudeau's quest to apologize for the inappropriate treatment comes to fruition.
"Regardless of the numbers originally mentioned in the draft document, we are now actively trying to identify these individuals," Canadian Forces spokesperson Suzanne Parker said.
It will undoubtedly take some time for exact numbers to be realized, and it is not yet known when Trudeau will apologize to these members, many of whom likely retired from service, as Ross did, rather than face a career of scrutiny and non-advancement.