Thank you for inviting me here today.
I'm a veteran. I'm a 30-year public servant. Currently, I'm employed by the Department of Justice here in Ottawa. I'd like to simply make it clear that I'm speaking in my own personal capacity and on behalf of the LGBT Purge Fund.
I am a very interested observer of the Canadian Armed Forces, and I'll explain why. I served in the Canadian Armed Forces as an officer between 1986 and 1989. I was an officer in the security branch, which is like the military police branch, and I had hoped to make it my career. I was off to a very good start. I was the top graduate of every military class and course I ever took. However, a long career was not meant to be.
Following multiple brutal, intense interrogations and police investigations, I was purged from the military in 1989 under the classification of being “not advantageously employable due to homosexuality”. This was despite the fact that I was a loyal, hard-working and excellent service member.
My subsequent legal challenge against the Canadian Armed Forces and its codified form of discrimination in 1992 was directly responsible for the formal ending of Canada's ban on LGBT service members, and I haven't stopped fighting since.
I feel that it's an obligation of mine to keep an eye on the military to ensure that it lives up to the best of its promise. As we see today and as I've just heard in witness testimony from Danielle, that's not quite the case.
I'll tell you some of my observations. Of course, I don't intend to speak for lesbians or transgender service members, but I do think that it's helpful for you to hear about some of the evolution in policy and changes made over the 30 years.
By and large, I believe that the military's policy regarding inclusion, particularly towards women—both cisgender women and transgender women—is actually quite good. The military has, of course, all of the things that they must have: pay parity, access to career paths, family support and so on. The establishment of the sexual misconduct response centre is a good thing and so was the establishment of Operation Honour.
Now what we know, though, is that policy is vital, but practice counts.
I recently read all four editions of the progress reports on Operation Honour. What you'll see is something quite interesting when you dig into the details. They gloss over, for example, any of the activities that need to be focused on LGBT issues, although in her report in 2015, Madam Deschamps clearly stressed that women and LGBT people needed special attention. The last report is completely silent on the military's activities for LGBT people. The last time a progress report addressed them was in 2016.
Generally, I think the military should actually be commended for some of its leadership in the pursuit of an open, diverse and truly inclusive military. In this way, we stand in stark contrast to most of the rest of the world. For example, just last month, I was in Washington, D.C. where I attended a rally in support of transgender service members in the U.S. armed forces. Of course, you see people who are capable, loyal, brave and committed to the service of their country. However, through a tweet in 2017, their commander-in-chief simply said that they are not accepted or allowed “to serve in any capacity in the U.S. [armed forces].”
In contrast, here in Canada mere hours after that 2017 tweet, I personally took enormous comfort from seeing Minister Sajjan's tweet—no doubt it was coincidental in timing—that simply reinforced that all Canadians “of all sexual orientations and gender identities” are welcome to serve, with an enthusiastic “Join us!” at the end. He's right about that. That's supportive.
Having spent a fair bit of time with active duty military personnel in military facilities recently, including, for example, NDHQ and CFB Moose Jaw, my sense is that progress towards inclusion is actually getting much better. I saw this is a matter of leadership. I thought it sincere and not just for show. As we can see, there are still real gaps, though, to be addressed.
I visited CFB Moose Jaw and talked about LGBT history and was invited to speak with the colonel of the base, that's the 15 Wing commander, who aired the film The Fruit Machine, chronicling the story of Canada's shameful purge history. In his opening remarks, Colonel O'Reilly made it clear he would never tolerate discrimination of misconduct on his base and would drive out those who couldn't adhere to those rules of respect. He said he likes to adhere to those rules of respect. He said he likes to think of it as another form of purge if there is intolerance. I'm not sure I like that word used too much in that context, but nevertheless his sentiment was right.
Zero tolerance policies, of course, tend to be aspirational. The military is not unique in this regard. But the culture and environment there means it's among the most vigilant places to do everything they can to support those policies. Work in supporting these policies needs to be innovative, effective and constant if there's a hope of being a greater employer for the 15% or so of the military who are women.
The military should continue to be pushed at all levels to set up positive space campaigns, LGBT working groups and pride networks. Women who are part of the LGBT community need these resources. Service members need a place to go that's safe to seek advice and guidance on how to engage with or be supportive of colleagues who are LGBT who may be transitioning, non-binary or part of the LGBT community. We know these places exist but only in a few bases, so if the indication from leadership is that they're across the military and this is widely embraced, it's just not the case. They can do much better in this regard.
Wrapping up, I'd like to talk a little bit about training. It's imperative not just for new recruits, but at every level. Officers and everyone else need to be part of the foundational support that's given around effective diversity and respectful workplace training policies.
Soldiers today need to know about their history. It was only 30 years ago—everyone here remembers where they were 30 years ago—that the military was purging LGBT service members. The history needs to be shared if we're ever to live up to what the Prime Minister recently said in 2017, which is that he's committed to never letting this happen again. LGBT service members need to be an integrated part of all of the diversity and equality strategies. Seeking input from the community should be embraced and deliberately sought out. Feedback has to be integrated from people to whom it matters most.
In closing, I'd like to let the committee know that your next witness, Madam Martine Roy, and I are working together on some of these reconciliation measures through the administration of a $15-million to $25-million fund here in Canada. We're going to be doing some incredible things like supporting the military in their training. We're also going to be building a national monument in the national capital region to acknowledge the purge period and for LGBT people. We're collecting historical documents so that we know why some of these policies happen. We want to be part of the solution in making Canada a more inclusive and diverse place, but particularly for the public service, military and RCMP.