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Canada announces memorial to the thousands of LGBT+ people persecuted and purged by officials over five decades

Lily Wakefield May 18, 2020
Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waves to the crowd as he marches in the Pride Parade in Toronto, June 25, 2017. (GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waves to the crowd as he marches in the Pride Parade in Toronto, June 25, 2017. (GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)

Canada has just approved a site for a C$8 million (£4.7 million) memorial to thousands of LGBT+ people who were forced out of government and military jobs by a five-decade institutional “purge”.

The memorial will be built in Ottawa, overlooking Canada’s Supreme Court and Parliament Hill, according to LGBTQ Nation.

Over five decades, from the 1940s until the mid-’90s, LGBT+ Canadians were discharged from the military or fired from the civil service.

A state-sponsored programme to root out gay and lesbian people was carried out until the late 60s, because it was a thought they posed a threat to national security.

Authorities in Canada used a creation called the Fruit Machine to supposedly identify homosexual people.

Queer Canadians underwent horrific tests and ‘cure’ treatment.

The discredited device, developed by a university in Ottawa, showed public servants and military personnel sexually explicit pictures and while measuring their perspiration, pupil dilation, and heart rate to look for signs of arousal.

Those who were thought to be gay, or admitted to being gay, were fired or forced to undergo psychiatric treatment to “cure” them.

LGBT+ people who were outed were subjected to discrimination by their families and friends, with many considering suicide.

Victims of the purge filed a class-action lawsuit against the government, and in 2018 a $145 million national compensation fund was created.

The Ottawa memorial was partly paid for by the fund. Although a national competition was set to decide the design of the memorial, it has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, it is hoped that it will be completed on time in 2024.

Justin Trudeau apologised to victims of state-sponsored homophobia.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau formally apologised for the purge of LGBT+ employees and historic gay sex convictions in 2017.

In an address live streamed on the internet, Trudeau teared up as he described the “devastating story” of the victims of state-sponsored discrimination and those convicted for being gay.

“This is the devastating story of people who were branded criminals by the government — people who lost their livelihoods, and in some cases, their lives,” he said.

“These aren’t distant practices of governments long forgotten. This happened systematically, in Canada, with a timeline more recent than any of us would like to admit.”

More: Canada, Discrimination, fruit machine, Justin Trudeau, LGBT+ purge, memorial, Ottawa

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