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Trudeau government to apologize to LGBTQ soldiers forced out of the service
After years of waiting, LGBTQ former members of Canada’s Armed Forces are expected to receive an apology for the treatment they received during their time in the service.
Between the 1950s and 1990s, LGBTQ soldiers were routinely pushed out of jobs in both the government and the military. Others said they were the subject of harassment that forced them to cut their military careers short.
In November, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed MP Randy Boissonnault as a special adviser on LGBTQ issues. Included in his mandate was addressing discrimination in the armed forces.
In an interview with CTV Montreal, Boissonnault said an official apology is on its way.
“I’m hearing the pain,” he said. “I’m hearing the trauma. I understand that people want to see this happen very soon and I have heard that loudly and clearly. We will get this done and we will do this in a sensitive and respectable manner. We will do this so it’s broadly accepted by the community.”
Several former service members who said they were discriminated against launched a class-action lawsuit against the federal government in March. Boissonnault said the upcoming apology is unrelated to that case.
“Will there be a distinction between somebody who was officially released because of sexuality, versus somebody who left because they couldn’t take the harassment? It will be something we will look at and are taking into consideration,” he said. “That’s even more challenging to document and verify, but we will take a look as part of the comprehensive response.”
The Edmonton-area MP said the apology will be just one part of the government’s response to the complaints and that new anti-discrimination legislation is in the works.
In November, the government introduced legislation aimed at repealing Section 159 of the Criminal Code, which made illegal anal intercourse except when conducted between two persons older than 18 or between a married husband and wife. Critics said the section was discriminatory as the age of consent in Canada for heterosexual sexual intercourse is 16.
“Repealing the Criminal Code section 159, which discriminates against young gay men that have come out, it’s very important for us to have a policy, as a whole, in the federal government on gender identity and expression,” said Boissonnault. “When do we ask for sex information on a form? When do we ask for gender information? Why does the federal government need that information, what are we going to use it for?”