The LGBT Purge

What was the LGBT Purge?

Between the 1950s and mid-1990s, LGBT members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP and the federal public service were systematically discriminated against, harassed and often fired as a matter of policy and sanctioned practice. In what came to be known as the “LGBT Purge”, people were followed, interrogated, abused and traumatized.

The LGBT Purge was implemented at the highest levels of the Government of Canada and was carried out with callous disregard for the dignity, privacy and humanity of its victims. With its roots in the Cold War, the Canadian Government’s LGBT Purge continued for over forty years.

Who are the survivors of the LGBT Purge?

“Survivors” refers to the victims of the state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP and the federal public service and surviving partners and families of the victims. An estimated 9,000 lives were devastated by the Purge.

What is the lasting impact of the LGBT Purge?

The Canadian Government caused irreparable psychological trauma to their 2SLGBTQI+ employees which continues to this day. The careers and self-esteem of a generation of young people were destroyed; victims were denied benefits, severance, pensions and opportunities for promotion if they managed to keep their jobs. This shameful period in Canadian history also resulted in suicide, HIV, fear, depression, PTSD, addiction, disownment, criminalization, rejection, isolation, erasure and many other enduring and painful experiences.

The Class Action Settlement

Why was a class action lawsuit launched against the Canadian Government by Purge survivors?

The class action lawsuit emerged from a united feeling of injustice and frustration at being silenced by the Canadian Government. Through time, many brave survivors made efforts to secure apologies, gain recognition, win compensation and change Canadian law. Besides the successful action taken by Michelle Douglas against the exclusionary policies facing 2SLGBTQI+ service members in the early 1990s, efforts were largely rebuffed until the fight was organized collectively.

A number of key events led up to the class action lawsuit: in 2015, a group of Purge survivors and allies created the “We Demand an Apology Network”; in 2016, the Network held a press conference in Ottawa calling for an apology; and shortly after, EGALE Canada Human Rights Trust released “The Just Society Report: Grossly Indecent: Confronting the Legacy of State Sponsored Discrimination Against Canada’s LGBTQ2SI Communities.”

Activists, researchers and many others stepped up with survivors to demand acknowledgement of the Purge and its devastation. Together their efforts were relentless and effective. In 2016, survivors of the LGBT Purge launched a nation-wide class action lawsuit against the Canadian government.

Who was involved in the Class Action Settlement?

The class action lawsuit was launched under the direction of lead counsel Douglas Elliott of Cambridge LLP. Because the action was national in scale, the legal team included other lawyers from across the country: Audrey Boctor from Irving Mitchell Kalichman LPP in Quebec; John McKiggan Q.C. from McKiggan Herbert in Nova Scotia; and Kirk M. Baert from Koskie Minsky LLP in Ontario.

The three representative plaintiffs were Todd Ross, Martine Roy and Alida Satalic. These brave Purge survivors lead the class action on behalf of the class members.

What was the result of the Class Action Settlement?

The class action settlement reached between Purge survivors and the Canadian government was reached in 2018. The historic settlement included a global settlement amount of up to $145 million.

How will the Settlement money be spent and why?

Up to $110 million was set aside for the payment of damages to survivors of the LGBT Purge. Following the settlement, survivors applied for these funds, had their cases assessed and were awarded damages for their suffering.

The payments of claims were made by the court-approved administrator, Deloitte.

Additionally, between $15 and $25 million was earmarked specifically to “memorialize the historical discrimination against LGBTQ2 Canadians, including with respect to the LGBT Purge” (Final Settlement Agreement, 2018). These funds are symbolically representative of funds that would have been payable to Purge survivors had they lived long enough to make a claim in the class action lawsuit.

The funds will be put towards specific, court-mandated projects that will be implemented and governed by the LGBT Purge Fund.

As described below, these projects include: an 2SLGBTQI+ National Monument, an exhibition at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the collection of historic records relating to the LGBT Purge, diversity and inclusion training and the support of community projects relating to the Purge. Please see the LGBT Purge Fund’s statement regarding allegations of racism & homophobia at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Who decided how the money would be allocated?

The LGBT Purge Fund board of directors are mandated to administer the spending of the $15 – $25 million under their management. They have decided how much to allocate to each of the four main projects as well as the allocation of funds for operating and grant expenses.

The LGBT Purge Fund does not play a role in determining the compensation awards for Purge survivors.

Has the class action settlement been closed?

Yes. As of January 7, 2022, the Federal Court ordered that the administration of the Individual Compensation Claims Process was completed and all further obligations under the settlement agreements are terminated.

The Court also ordered that Deloitte (class action administrator) is discharged of its duties.

The Court also ordered that the duties of Cambridge LLP, Koskie Minsky, McKiggan Hebert and IMK Advocates (collectively, “Class Counsel”) as Class Counsel are suspended and no further duties or obligations are owed to the Class Members. The Court further ordered that the duties of Representative Plaintiffs Todd Ross, Martine Roy, and Alida Satalic, are hereby suspended and they owe no further duties or obligations to the Class Members.

The LGBT Purge Fund

What is the LGBT Purge Fund?

The LGBT Purge Fund is a not-for-profit corporation that was set up to manage a portion of the funds that emerged from the class action settlement. These funds would have compensated LGBT Purge victims who have passed away. The LGBT Purge Fund is legally mandated to use these funds for projects that focus on reconciliation and memorialization. The responsibilities of the LGBT Purge Fund are established by court order and cannot be changed.

*Why “LGBT”?

Over the centuries, various terms have been used to describe persons exhibiting gender or sexual diversity. Many of those words have been pejorative. In the context of the modern human rights movement, members of the communities in question have sought to choose their own nomenclature. This has resulted in an ongoing struggle to find language that is inclusive, accurate and intelligible.

LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans) is the most common acronym in use around the world today. The current acronym used by the Federal Government is 2SLGBTQI+ (Two-Spirit Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Queer and Intersex.

The former Federal Government policy that is now called the “LGBT Purge” was not called that at the time. Terms that are now considered offensive, such as homosexual and sexual deviate, were in use to describe the targets. The policy was directed at and primarily impacted on LGBT persons. Lawyer Douglas Elliott chose the term LGBT Purge to describe the policy and events as it was fairly accurate, inoffensive and was intelligible in both official languages.

In the context of the class action, the acronym LGBT was consistently used. As a result, our organization has taken the name LGBT Purge Fund. While recognizing the limitations of the acronym LGBT, the LGBT Purge Fund has decided to continue to use it in the interests of consistency, clarity and stability of nomenclature.

Who is on the LGBT Purge Fund Board of Directors?

There are six Directors of the LGBT Purge Fund. All members of the Board serve as volunteers. Martine Roy (Chair), Todd Ross, Diane Pitre, Wayne Davis and Linda Goguen-Manning are all survivors of the LGBT Purge and have served in the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP and/or the federal public service. Douglas Elliott also serves on the Board. He is a human rights lawyer with a long-standing commitment to fighting for 2SLGBTQI+ equality. He was the lead lawyer representing class members on the LGBT Purge class action lawsuit. Michelle Douglas is the Executive Director of the LGBT Purge Fund and also a Purge survivor.

What is the mandate of the LGBT Purge Fund?

The LGBT Purge Fund has a legal mandate to implement four main projects:

1. Create a national monument to discrimination against 2SLGBTQI+ people in Canada including LGBT Purge in the National Capital Region

2. Support the development of a museum exhibition by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, based in Winnipeg (Please see the LGBT Purge Fund’s statement regarding allegations of racism & homophobia at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights).

3. Address the collection, preservation and accessibility of historical records related to the LGBT Purge

4. Work with the Canadian government to enhance inclusion in the federal public service and to improve existing training on 2SLGBTQI+ inclusion

The mandate and responsibilities of the LGBT Purge Fund are established by court order; in accordance with the terms of the Final Settlement Agreement reached with the Canadian government, they cannot be changed. The LGBT Purge Fund Board will determine how money is allocated to the projects.

What happens when you finish your projects?

Following the completion of the four mandated projects, the LGBT Purge Fund will be dissolved. This is a requirement of the legal settlement agreement.

2SLGBTQI+ National Monument

What is the 2SLGBTQI+ National Monument project?

Following the class action settlement described above, creating a national monument is part of the LGBT Purge Fund’s legal mandate. The monument will be a visible landmark that will recognize the generations of 2SLGBTQI+ people in Canada and tell the story of those who have been persecuted, abused, dismissed and marginalized because of who they desire and how they identify. It will generally acknowledge the discrimination experienced by the 2SLGBTQI+ community, and specifically acknowledge the abuse perpetrated by the Canadian state on its people during the LGBT Purge.

Where will the monument be located and why?

The 2SLGBTQI+ National Monument will be located in Ottawa. The location, approved by the National Capital Commission in January 2020, is in the downtown core of Ottawa – near Wellington Street, by the Portage Bridge (below the current Library and Archives headquarters). See the details in the Project page of this website.

Who is paying for this monument?

The money for the monument comes from the settlement reached between the survivors of the LGBT Purge and the Government of Canada. These funds are a gift from LGBT Purge victims. Indeed, the funds represent compensation for the suffering of victims of the LGBT Purge Fund who did not live long enough to be eligible to receive individual compensation under the LGBT Purge settlement. These funds are managed by the LGBT Purge Fund.

Who is involved in developing the monument?

The 2SLGBTQI+ National Monument is a collaboration between the LGBT Purge Fund, the Department of Canadian Heritage, the National Capital Commission and diverse 2SLGBTQI+ communities and their allies.

Canadian Heritage: The government department is responsible for managing the international design competition for the monument, including the request for qualification and the request for proposals aimed at design professionals.

National Capital Commission: This federal crown corporation is the steward for federal land in the National Capital Region and for the monument site. It also develops the technical documents for the design competition and will manage construction of the monument.

LGBT Purge Survivors: Survivors have been included in the process to develop a vision for the monument as part of the Monument Advisory Committee, in discussion groups and as survey respondents. Many survivors sit on the LGBT Purge Fund Board and two will also sat on the monument jury. They will also be consulted on the final design proposals and educational components for the monument and included in an opening ceremony.

The Monument Advisory Committee: Comprising eighteen LGBT Purge survivors, community leaders, advocates, artists, historians and design professionals, the group worked closely with the LGBT Purge Fund Board to draft a vision statement for the monument and provide feedback on site options. They remain involved as advisors to the LGBT Purge Fund.

The 2SLGBTQI+ community: Diverse community members were included in the development of the Monument’s Vision and provided feedback on the final design proposals. 2SLGBTQI+ communities also participated in the public survey and represented over half of the 5,500 respondents.

Indigenous communities: The LGBT Purge Fund has been in dialogue with the local Algonquin Nations, Kitigan Zibi and Pikwàkanagàn, throughout this process. Two-Spirit First Nation, Métis, and Inuit groups and individuals from across Canada also provided input and expertise to shape the Monument’s Vision, select the monument site, and provide feedback on the finalist proposals through an Indigenous Circle.

The Public: In late 2021, Canadian Heritage gathered input from the public on the five finalist proposals through their website.

The Jury: A ten-person expert jury was assembled for this competition in 2020. Before making its final decision, the jury considered comments from the National Capital Commission, the Monument Advisory Committee, the Indigenous Circle, the 2SLGBTQI+ community and the general public. The jury determined the winning design in late 2021.

Team Thunderhead: In March 2022, “Thunderhead” was announced as the winning proposal. The design was conceived by the Winnipeg-based team led by Liz Wreford, Peter Sampson and Taylor LaRocque of Public City, with artists Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan and Albert McLeod, Indigenous and Two-Spirited People subject-matter expert and advisor.

The Education & Interpretation Committee: In 2022, we brought together a group of experts to guide the Fund as we identify the key messages that will be told on site and on the Monument’s future companion website. The Education and Interpretation Committee (or EIC) is composed of nine members from diverse fields of expertise. Meet the members.

How is the LGBT Purge Fund engaging Indigenous communities in the Monument project?

The LGBT Purge Fund is committed to the principles of inclusion in all of our work.

The LGBT Purge Fund recognizes that the 2SLGBTQI+ National Monument will be built on unceded Algonquin territory.

We are committed to meaningful and on-going engagement with 2-Spirit and Indigenous communities. In consultation with the National Capital Commission, we have met with leaders from the local First Nations, Kitigan Zibi and Pikwàkanagàn to discuss the project and continue to engage local Algonquin leadership.

In 2019, we worked with local Indigenous consultants to convene an Indigenous Circle with 2-Spirit First Nations, Inuit and Métis participants from across Canada to discuss Indigenous perspectives on the monument. This resulted in an Indigeneity Principle in our Monument Vision and an Indigenous perspective woven throughout that document. Our Indigenous Circle participants also advised the LGBT Purge Fund on site options for the monument and continue to play an on-going advisory role in this process.

We are honoured to have 2-Spirit Elder Ma-Nee Chacaby on our Monument Advisory Committee, which helped develop the first Vision and continues to be involved in the Monument process. Additionally, we were honoured to include a briefing document from 2-Spirit Elder Albert McLeod about the importance of the 2-Spirit perspective and experience in communications. It is available here.

Indigenous Peoples (including those who identify as queer and Two-Spirit) will continue to have an impact on this process and on the monument. We continue to engage individuals from local and national Indigenous groups and have strongly encouraged Indigenous participation on design teams through the Request for Qualifications issued with the Department of Canadian Heritage in fall 2020.

What is the estimated timeline for the monument’s development?

In autumn 2019, the LGBT Purge Fund organized a collaborative stakeholder engagement process to develop a vision for the monument and consult on potential monument sites. The site was approved by the National Capital Commission in January 2020.

In fall 2020, a request for qualifications was launched by Canadian Heritage to encourage design teams to express interest in a competition for the monument design. Five teams, detailed here, were shortlisted for this stage of the competition. These designs were made public in 2021 and a public survey collected feedback over a two-week period.

In late 2021, the Monument’s 10-person jury met to choose between the five finalist proposals. In making their decision, the jury considered feedback from the public survey, the Monument Advisory Committee, the Indigenous Circle and the National Capital Commission.

In March 2022, the “Thunderhead” was announced as the winning proposal. The design is detailed here. The monument will be inaugurated in the summer of 2025.