Nearly two years after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a national apology for the country’s previous persecution of gay people, an official memorial has been announced to honor those harmed by the oppression.
Canada has long been thought of as a beacon of inclusion and tolerance. So it came as a surprise to many that America’s neighbor next-door had in the past inflicted notorious harm on its LGBT citizens, which resulted in scores of lives and careers ruined because of their sexual orientation.
Known in Canda as the “gay purge,” for nearly a quarter of a century, until 1992, the Canadian government implemented McCarthyesque policies to weed out and punish gay public servants, members of the military, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Throughout that time, homosexuality was illegal in Canada. An estimated 9000 people lost their jobs, were jailed, and sadly some were so completely devasted, they committed suicide.
Pierre Elliott Trudeau – Former Justice minister and father of Justin Trudeau, ended the country’s anti-LGBT policies in a declarative legislative move that stated, “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation. Under his watch, the divisive laws were repealed.
As the expression goes, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree and thank goodness. Today, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues his father’s stance of equality for all, as one of the leading champions of LGBTQ rights and inclusion.
Canada’s past oppression of the LGBT community disproportionately affected gay men, though there were many lesbians also whose lives were impacted. Notably, as reported by the New York Times, one woman, in particular – Michelle Douglas, contributed to the dismantling of the infamous policies. Douglas had a celebrated career in law and law enforcement with dedicated service in the military police. Once her sexuality came into question, her professional life was jeopardized, as she shared with the NYTimes:
“Many of the military police that interrogated me were just cruel. Some expressed a bizarre, prurient interest in the sex lives of homosexuals as well,” she told me on Friday. “The people I encountered were absolutely zealous about it. They seemed to not only embrace the policy, but they wanted to demonize, mock, and humiliate anyone who they suspected of being homosexual.”
Douglas was fired in 1989 with “homosexuality” blatantly listed as the reason. Determined to make a difference for herself and others, she filed suit against the government, and undeniably, it was her triumph in the case that helped drive the final nail into the coffin of Canada’s gay purge three years later.
The monument to honor Canada’s gay purge victims will be subject to an international design competition, and feedback from the public will also be a factor before the project breaks ground. However, the project cost is estimated to be 8 million dollars (Canadian currency) with a proposed completion date of 2024.
Well done, Canada! Thank you for showing the world that a country’s healing can only truly begin when it owns and makes amends for its past atrocities.