Canada LGBT Purge Discrimination Class Action
*Update: A Settlement was reached & announced on 11/28/2017. You can read more about the class action settlement here.
*We answered the most popular FAQs about the military discrimination lawsuit on this page.
An extraordinary class action – How the largest award for LGBT historical discrimination in the world was approved
Even for seasoned class action lawyers, June 18, 2018 was an unusual day in court. Federal Court Justice Martine St-Louis presided over a hearing that lead class counsel Douglas Elliott calls “more of a therapy session than a legal hearing.” Fifteen victims of the federal government’s systemic discrimination and persecution of its gay, lesbian and bisexual employees stood up to tell their stories before the court. Read more about the historic case here.
Class Action Lawsuit against Attorney General of Canada
McKiggan Hebert Lawyers in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Koskie Minsky LLP in Toronto, Ontario have commenced a proposed class action against the Attorney General of Canada on behalf of current and former members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence who were stationed in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador between 1969 and 1993.
Systematically Identifying & Purging Suspected Gays
The claim alleges that between the 1950s and the 1990s, the Canadian government engaged in systematic campaign to identify and purge lesbians, gay men, and those suspected of being gay from the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence.
As a result of their sexual orientation, lesbians, gay men, and those suspected of homosexuality were put under surveillance, investigated, interrogated, and denied security clearances. Pressure was put on these individuals to leave the Canadian military service. Gay men and lesbians in the Canadian military service were systematically harassed, intimidated and discriminated against. Ultimately the employment of thousands of lesbians, gay men, and those suspected of being gay was terminated without proper compensation or due process of law.
The claim seeks $150 million in damages
The claim seeks $150 million in damages for breach of fiduciary duty and breach of the class members’ rights under section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination.
“For too long, gay men and lesbians in the Canadian military have faced inappropriate and unlawful discrimination,” says John McKiggan Q.C., co-lead counsel at McKiggan Hebert Lawyers, “and this case can start to right these wrongs of the past.”
Overview of the Case
Between the 1950s and the 1990s, the Canadian government engaged in a systematic campaign to identify, harass, and purge lesbians, gay men, and those suspected of being gay from the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence.
As a result of their sexual orientation, lesbians, gay men, and those suspected of being gay in the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence were systematically put under surveillance, investigated, interrogated, harassed, and denied security clearances. The Canadian Armed Forces put pressure on these individuals to leave the military service. Ultimately the employment of thousands of lesbians, gay men, and those suspected of being gay was terminated.
This campaign and its severe, detrimental impact on lesbians and gay men in the Canadian military services caused tremendous harm to an already vulnerable group. As a result of this purge, these persons were denied their basic human rights and suffered from a virtually unparalleled degree of humiliation. The purge campaign violated the essential dignity and freedom of the class members through the direct imposition of disadvantage, stereotyping and social prejudice.
Lesbians and gay men affected by this campaign were denied equality and equal protection and benefit under the law that violated even basic standards, including their rights and freedoms under section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These actions and their severe, detrimental impact arose and persisted due to the defendant’s breach of its duty of care and fiduciary duty owed to the members of the class.
As a result of their sexual orientation , thousands of lesbians, gay men, and those suspected of being gay were directly affected by this campaign. Many people’s lives and livelihoods were destroyed. This dark chapter in Canadian history forms the subject-matter of this action.
In 1968, the “Report of the Royal Commission on Security” (the “McKenzie Report”) chaired by Maxell MacKenzie (the “McKenzie Commission”) was submitted to the Canadian government. It mandated a confidential inquiry into the operation of Canadian security methods. The McKenzie Report recommended that a new Board be established to deal with appeals against security decisions to ensure that the rights of individuals had not been unnecessarily abrogated or restricted in the interests of security.
Although in 1969, an amendment to the Criminal Code made homosexual acts in private between two consenting adults legal in Canada, the Security Service continued to collect intelligence on gay men and lesbians and the purge continued.
A report entitled “Commission of Inquiry Concerning Certain Activities of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police” (the “McDonald Report”) dated 1981 chaired by Mr. Justice D.C. McDonald (the “McDonald Commission”) stated that there had been a concerted effort on the part of the Security Service for over two decades to collect information on lesbians and gay men. The McDonald Report further stated that the data collection program was inconsistent with the proper role of a security intelligence agency. Finally, the McDonald Report stated:
- “[t]hat such a programme has not been halted years ago is a striking illustration of an insensitivity about what the Security Service ought to be securing.”
- “We believe that the security intelligence agency should no longer systematically collect information on homosexuals […].”
- “Such collection programmes do not conform to the principles we established […] for opening and maintaining files on individuals.”
The McDonald Report also noted that there was still no right to appeal for individuals “who were transferred, or failed to obtain a promotion or position, or who had a contract terminated on security grounds,” despite the Mackenzie Commission’s recommendation.
The McDonald Commission did not order an inquiry into the organization of these campaigns, despite the McDonald Commission’s findings and recommendations. The campaign continued in the Canadian military.
In 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteed the plaintiff and the class members’ equal treatment before and under the law and equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination.
Throughout and after the 1980s and 1990s, military purges of lesbian and gay men continued. Suspected military members were followed on and off military bases. They were also subjected to arbitrary search and seizures and humiliated with pejorative investigatory questions. The Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defense’s systemic policy of discrimination was a violation of the Defendant’s duty of care and fiduciary duty and of the rights of the plaintiff and the class under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
For more information contact McKiggan Hebert at902-423-2050.
More Information on the CAF & DND Class Action
- Combined National Class action filed in Federal Court March 17, 2017
- Feds facing LGBT class-action suit
- LGBT discrimination class actions against federal government merge
- N.S. lawyers combining three class action lawsuits against Canadian military