The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), in cooperation with the LGBT Purge Fund, has created a new advisory council for a major project to develop exhibitions, public and education programs and digital content on the LGBT Purge.
The Purge was the longest-running and largest-scale violation of the human rights of any workforce in Canadian history. From the 1950s to the 1990s, thousands of LGBTQ2+ people in the Canadian military, RCMP and federal civil service saw their careers stymied or terminated because their sexual orientation or gender identity was considered a threat to the country they had chosen to serve. During the Cold War, this discriminatory process was often justified on the grounds of national security risks, given their purported “character weakness” and susceptibility to blackmail by foreign agents – despite lack of evidence that such coercion had ever occurred.
Shattering lives and careers, the Purge resulted in psychological trauma, material hardship, financial ruin, self-harm and suicide. Nevertheless, LGBTQ2+ Canadians fought back, launching political and legal challenges that saw the policy mechanisms of the Purge finally dismantled in the 1990s. However, this did not end the culture and practices of homophobic discrimination that the Purge had enabled and sustained. Demands for an official apology and compensation led to a 2016 class-action lawsuit against the Government of Canada, which spurred a historic apology to LGBTQ2+ Canadians in 2017 and resulted in a $145 million settlement in 2018.
In addition to individual compensation, the final settlement package included funding for commemorative and public history projects, including CMHR-curated exhibitions and programming. The funds are administered by a not-for-profit corporation called the LGBT Purge Fund, whose board of directors is primarily comprised of class action members.
The newly created advisory council, co-chaired by delegates from the CMHR and the LGBT Purge Fund, will help guide the development of a major temporary exhibition – expected to open in 2024 – as well as a travelling exhibition and a long-term exhibit in the CMHR core galleries, in addition to programs and online content, which will begin to be launched next year. Many of the council members are Purge survivors, while others were chosen for their expertise about the Purge and related human rights issues.
Inaugural members of the advisory council are:
- Ex-officio: Michelle Douglas. LGBT Purge Fund Executive Director, Purge survivor, former Canadian Armed Forces officer. Ottawa.
- Co-chair: Douglas Elliott. LGBT Purge Fund board member, class action lead lawyer. Elliot Lake, Ontario.
- Co-chair: Riva Harrison. CMHR VP, External Relations and Community Engagement. Winnipeg.
- Mark Berlin. Purge survivor, Professor of Practice at McGill University, former Director General of International Legal Programs in the federal Justice Department, Senior General Counsel and Special Advisor to the Deputy Minister, CMHR Board Trustee. Ottawa.
- David Churchill. Professor of History, University of Manitoba, principal investigator and coordinator of the Manitoba Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Two-Spirit and Queer (LGBTTQ) Archival and Oral History Initiative. Winnipeg.
- Steven Deschamps. Purge survivor, Lieutenant-Colonel (retired), Royal Canadian Air Force. British Columbia.
- Lyle Dick. Senior Advisor, Know History Inc., former president of the Canadian Historical Association, former West Coast Historian for Parks Canada. Vancouver.
- T. Sharp Dopler. Purge survivor, former Lieutenant (N) (Retired), Royal Canadian Navy, Niizh-Manidoowag educator and activist. Ottawa.
- Monica Forrester. Program and Outreach co-ordinator, Maggie's Sex Workers Action Project, Trans/Two-Spirit woman of colour. Toronto.
- Kathryn Foss. Purge survivor, Major (retired), Canadian Armed Forces. Ottawa.
- Patrizia Gentile. Associate Professor in Human Rights and Social Justice, Institute of Women's and Gender Studies, Carleton University, co-author of The Canadian War on Queers: National Security as Sexual Regulation. Ottawa.
- Lynne Gouliquer. Purge survivor, former Canadian Armed Forces member, co-author of numerous scholarly articles on military “witch-hunts” against LGBTQ2+ soldiers and their families, Associate Professor in Sociology, Laurentian University. Sudbury, Ontario.
- Patti Gray. Purge survivor, former Canadian Armed Forces member, Rainbow Veterans of Canada. Toronto.
- Albert McLeod. Two-Spirit Elder, advisory council member re. Government of Canada apology for injustices faced by LGBTQ2+ communities, pioneer in HIV education for Indigenous people. Winnipeg.
- Orde Morton. Purge survivor, former Canadian diplomat. Toronto.
- Darryl Perry. Purge survivor, career executive (retired) in the Public Service of Canada, former CEO of the Canadian Association for HIV Research and the International AIDS Conference, former collaborating contributor to the Office of the Senior Advisor, LGBT Rights, UNAID/UN. Toronto.
- Todd Ross. Purge survivor, former Canadian Armed Forces member, LGBT Purge Fund board member, former president of Toronto and York Region Métis Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario. St. Andrews, New Brunswick.
- Douglas Stewart. Founding executive director of the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention, founding member of Zami, the first Toronto Black queer group. Toronto.
- Elenore Sturko. RCMP officer and spokesperson, LGBTQ2+ activist, family members affected by the Purge. Surrey, BC.