Canada to compensate 718 gay-purge victims in class-action settlement

OTTAWA — A lawyer says some victims of the federal government’s gay purge were so devastated by the experience that even decades later they needed the help of a therapist to fill out forms to receive financial compensation.

Doug Elliott, who led a successful class action, says several claimants were still so mistrustful of the government after being investigated or fired for their sexual orientation that they worried the compensation process was an elaborate ruse to elicit information that would be used to punish them again.

A total of 718 people — fewer than Elliott had anticipated — filed the necessary paperwork for compensation by last month’s deadline under a historic settlement that was finalized in 2018.

It includes at least $50 million and up to $110 million in overall compensation, with eligible people each expected to receive between $5,000 and $175,000, depending on the gravity of their cases. Some have already received their cheques.

The settlement was a cornerstone of a sweeping federal apology delivered in November 2017 for decades of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.

Under policies that took root in the 1950s and continued into the early ’90s, federal agencies investigated, sanctioned and sometimes fired lesbian and gay members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP and the public service because they were deemed unsuitable.

The Canadian Press

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