On Tuesday, 28 November 2017, Prime Minister Trudeau offered an apology to LGBTQ2 people who had been targeted, harassed, and pushed out of positions with the military and the public service. Trudeau began by stating;
Today we acknowledge an often-overlooked part of Canada's history. Today, we finally talk about Canada's role in the systemic oppression, criminalization, and violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit communities.
The thinking at the time was that we were a high security risk, possibly subject to an increased likelihood of blackmail due to the character flaw of our 'lifestyles'. Many LGBTQ2 individuals were subjected to intensive scrutiny, interrogation, physical and sometimes sexual abuse - all in the name of exposing potential 'security risks' and national security. One of the quotes made by the lawyer in the pending class action against the government was; 'not ONE single lesbian or gay man ever betrayed this county, but many were betrayed by the country they served.' Speaking as someone who was essentially a victim of this attitude - that is true.
I served in the Cadet Instructor's Cadre, a sub-component of the primary reserve force that is comprised solely of officers. Our job is to train, guide and support youth who are members of the Canadian Cadet Movement. I enrolled in 1982/83 just as soon as i aged out of the program as a cadet. I loved being an officer, i loved teaching youth and i was good at it. I was proud of my military service, it was a key part of my identity even though it was a small way to serve. My military career came to an end in 1998 following false allegations against me, a military police investigation and the knowledge that i had been targeted expressly because i was a lesbian. The details are in the news story below.
I wasn't sure about attending the apology, i had heard the government apologise for Residential Schools years before and have witnessed the lack of action behind the words. I didn't hold out much hope that this would be more than pretty words. I got an invitation to attend and i did, less for my own sake than for the sake of those who didn't survive to hear the words. I was surprised at the impact that the words spoken by Justin Trudeau would have on me. I found myself in tears hearing the words;
You were not bad soldiers, sailors, airmen and women. You were not predators.... You served your country with integrity, and veterans you are..... You are professionals. You are patriots. And above all, you are innocent.
This apology has dredged up one of the most difficult passages in my life. It has been almost 20 years since i retired and put away that pain. Revisiting it has been very painful and will take me some time to process. I am grateful to have a wife, friends and family who have been incredibly supportive. Will the apology be more than pretty words? That remains to be seen - action speaks louder than words. I know that the words had an impact on me... what that impact will finally look like in my life also remains to be seen.