May 17th marks International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia was created to draw attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by the LGBTQI2S+ community.

May 17th was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder, according to May17.org.

Specifically, the day intends to get decision-makers, the media, the public, corporations, opinion leaders, local authorities, etc., to listen and be aware of the disturbing situation people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics face in their day-to-day lives.


Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan issued the following statement to mark the day, “On this day, we acknowledge and are proud to show support for LGBTQ2 Defence Team members who contribute so much to our organization. This year also sees the release of the LGBT Purge Fund Report, ‘Emerging from the Purge: The State of LGBTQI2S Inclusion in the Federal Workplace and Recommendations for Improvement’. We welcome the recommendations from this report as an opportunity to do better and are committed to eliminating all forms of discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation within the Defence Team.”

In recognition of the thousands of LGBT federal employees who were abused over 50 years during the LGBT Purge, the LGBT Purge Fund released its new report today: Emerging from the Purge: The State of LGBTQI2S Inclusion in the Federal Workplace and Recommendations for Improvement.


According to the report, Emerging from the Purge: The State of LGBTQI2S Inclusion in the Federal Workplace was written for the LGBT Purge Fund to support the Government of Canada in its efforts to create a more diverse workplace that is just and inclusive of LGBTQI2S+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, Two-Spirit) people.

The report is a part of amends being made for LGBTQI2S+ veterans and public servants directly affected by the “LGBT Purge” within the Canadian government nearing the end of the 20th century.

Sajjan further explained, “During this period known as the ‘LGBT Purge,’ LGBTQ2 members experienced abusive and violent actions that included identifying, investigating, sanctioning, and in some cases, discharging lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Federal Public Service.

“These experiences had significant impacts on the individuals who were targeted, resulting in lifelong trauma and emotional, psychological, relational and economic consequences. It also created an overall climate of fear within these organizations. While progress has been made, and official policies have changed, we also recognize that Defence Team LGBTQ2 members continue to experience discrimination, harassment, exclusion and misconduct today. We have made progress but we have more work to do, as this report indicates.”


The press release stated, in 2016, survivors of the LGBT Purge launched a class-action lawsuit against the Canadian government and reached a settlement of $145 million in 2018.

As Sajjan informed in his statement, in 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized for the LGBT Purge and worked with the plaintiffs of the LGBT Purge class action lawsuit to reach a final settlement agreement.

Michelle Douglas, executive director of the LGBT Purge Fund, stated in a press release, “The history of systemic discrimination towards LGBTQI2S people in Canada’s federal workplaces is deeply troubling. Since the LGBT Purge, we have come a long way towards building inclusive federal workplaces, but it will take co-ordinated, deliberate, and effective efforts to promote sustainable culture change and foster truly inclusive workplaces across the Government of Canada. Emerging from the Purge is the roadmap for change.”


Out of the 23 recommendations highlighted in the report, one of them is a call for the Government of Canada to consult with key stakeholders, including subject matter experts, employees, and LGBTQI2S+ organizations, to develop complete inclusivity training. Along with putting it in to practice across all federal departments and review formal documents and policies to include LGBTQI2S+ considerations.

Sajjan said they would use the LGBT Purge Fund Report and its findings to identify what course of action is needed to address systemic barriers and build upon inclusion practices, policies, tools, training materials, and mechanisms.

He also announced the launch of a Defence Advisory Group: the Defence Team Pride Advisory Organization.


The organization’s goal is to raise awareness of the barriers LGBTQI2S+ communities face, provide insight to leadership on systemic challenges, and create meaningful engagement throughout the Defence Team.

“There are people who still feel the harm of discriminatory policies, like those that led to the LGBT Purge. On May 17th we acknowledge past harms and raise awareness of behaviours that contribute to homophobia, transphobia and biphobia. Although we can never undo the pain these policies caused, we must learn from our mistakes and do better for our members in a manner that respects the dignity of all.”

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Julia Lennips

Julia is a journalist who is an avid reader and an artist. She is living in North Bay, ON pursing her passion for reporting.

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