Former soldiers launch class-action lawsuit over LGBT ban
Published Tuesday, November 1, 2016 11:33AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, January 11, 2018 11:09AM EST
Two former members of the Canadian military – including a woman from Quebec – are launching class-action lawsuits against the federal government for being discharged due to their sexuality.
A statement of claim filed in Ontario is seeking $600 million in damages for former military and public service members of the LGBTQ community, who were pushed out of government jobs based on their sexual orientation. Another one filed in Quebec is seeking a proportionally similar amount, although no dollar figure has been named.
Martine Roy and Todd Ross want the government to compensate armed forces members “who were investigated, targeted, sanctioned and/or who were discharged or terminated by the Government of Canada because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,” a statement of the claim made to the Quebec Superior Court reads.
They made the announcement at Parliament Hill in Ottawa Tuesday morning.
Separate lawsuits are being files because the Quebec legal system is different than in the rest of Canada.
Roy told reporters Tuesday that she admitted her sexual orientation to investigators at the age of 20, after several hours of questioning. "To save myself I told them the truth, and I signed a paper and they released me," she said.
Roy says she was sent to a psychiatrist and initially allowed to continue her career, but was abruptly dismissed four months after signing a new contract.
"At one point they told me that if I was honest they would keep me," she said. "I'm looking for an apology and redress."
Some veterans came forward to CTV Montreal this summer, sharing their stories of being interrogated, mistreated, and forced out of the military under Canadian forces Administrative Order 19-20, which banned gay people in the military.
The order began in the 1950s and was repealed in the 1990s.
Many suffered long-term consequences such as PTSD from the experiences they endured, and received no veterans’ assistance for their conditions.
Lawyer Doug Elliot said he still hoping to reach a negotiated settlement with the federal government.
The class-action lawsuits must be certified in court before they can move forward.
Prime Minister's Office said last week it is still looking into it and conducting a full review of the matter.
There is still no timeline, however, as to what the plans may be.
The full statement from the PMO is as follows:
'As Canadians, we know that protecting and promoting fundamental human rights are an imperative for governments and individuals alike – and this includes gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. Our government is committed to equality, and has recently tabled historic legislation to ensure that full protection against discrimination based on an individual's gender identity and expression is included in the Canadian Human Rights Act.
As a society, we have made great strides in securing legal rights for the LGBTQ2 community in Canada – from enshrining equality rights in the Charter to the passage of the Civil Marriage Act. But the fight to end discrimination is not over, and a lot of hard work remains. Canadians know our country is made stronger because of our diversity, not in spite of it.
The government continues to take these issues very seriously, and is conducting a full review of the matter. We do not have a timeline to announce at this stage.’
With a report from CTVNews.ca's Josh Elliott