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Have You Heard of the "Gay Purge?" (Grade 12)

Updated: Aug 8, 2020

What bearing does a person’s sexuality or gender identity have on the work that they do? Have you ever heard of the Gay Purge?

Many LGBTQ+ Canadians lost their careers in the armed forces during the 20th century. Once discovered as members of the LGBTQ+ community, under policies that took root in the 1950s and continued into the early 1990s, federal agencies investigated, sanctioned, and sometimes fired members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP, and the public services as they were deemed unsuitable because of their sexuality and/or gender identity. Many who kept their jobs were demoted, were overlooked for promotions and/or had their security clearances rescinded.

This period of history where queer, trans, and non-binary people who served in the military were fired or fined for their sexuality or gender is known today as the “Gay Purge.” The Gay Purge campaign was driven by the notion that the perceived “character weakness” of LGBTQ+ employees would make them susceptible to blackmail in the tense climate of the Cold War.

How has the Canadian Army been presented in your education? Have you learned about the Gay Purge in your social studies education so far? What other stories are missing from Social Studies classrooms and curricula?

This cellphilm was created for use in the Canadian History 122 (Grade 12) classroom in New Brunswick, and seeks to address the specific curriculum outcomes:

Canada and the Global Community (1945-Present)

o Inside Canada:

o 4.2.3 Students will demonstrate an understanding of the contemporary factors which shape the social and cultural fabric of today’s Canada.


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