Individuals for the Greater Good

freedom of religion

human cost


What we got: The details
Canadian Armed Forces

This story overlaps substantially with efforts to achieve Federal human rights protection, dealt with on a separate page. For brevity, references to that page are shown below simply as Federal. Cases of discrimination in the Canadian Armed Forces before 1977 are not tracked here.


TBP Jun 77: Threatened with expulsion from military: Lesbian goes public. Barbara Thornborrow, a private stationed in Ottawa, is questioned about her sexuality 9 May 77 by Canadian Forces SIU. She admits she is a lesbian; takes her story to GO — and to the media.

TBP Jun 77: Stop Press — Eight Lesbians ousted! (Sic; actually nine.) Master Corporal Gloria Cameron and eight others at base in Argentia, Newfoundland, kicked out of Forces.

TBP Jul 77: Forces ignore outcry, expel Thornborrow. Barbara Thornborrow fired, 20 Jun 77, as “not advantageously employable.” Story notes “Canadian Forces regulations state that ‘service policy does not allow the retention of sexual deviates in the Forces.'” Also reports that Gloria Cameron has appealed her expulsion to the Chief of Defence Staff — and taken her story to the press.

TBP Jul 77: Private goes public. Interview with Barbara Thornborrow (who would also give the keynote address at the 5th annual gay conference, Saskatoon, Jun 29 – Jul 5, 1977).

TBP Sep 77: “…deemed necessary to discriminate…” Interview with Gloria Cameron. She and eight others, questioned by SIU after two women at Canadian Forces base, Argentia, held a marriage ceremony off base, had been forced to sign release papers 2 Apr 77. Her appeal to Chief of Defence Staff, General John Dextraze, was rejected 2 Jul 77.


TBP Nov 79: Apoplexy now (sidebar to story of same date in Federal). In a letter to the CHRC, Jul 79, Admiral R. H. Falls, Chief of Defence Staff, reiterates Canadian Armed Forces opposition to inclusion of sexual orientation in CHRA. Falls wrote: “Experience has shown that the presence of homosexuals can be most disruptive. Such disruption often takes the form of physical attacks on the homosexual(s) concerned. … There is only one way of insuring our servicemen and women that their rights will be respected: by denying employment to homosexuals.”


TBP May 82: Forces fight rights. Canadian Armed Forces has asked government for exemption from certain clauses of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (see 17 Apr 82 in Federal). National Defence spokesperson told G&M, 10 Mar 82, this was needed “to ensure the discipline and order that is necessary in the Armed Forces.”

TBP Jul 82: Military hiring ban lifted: for a day. Responding to question from MP Svend Robinson (NDP) 25 May 80, Minister of National Defence Gilles Lamontagne says “I am not aware of any discrimination strictly on the grounds of sexual orientation. Solely on that (ground), I do not think there should be any discrimination.” Robinson quoted on response of “about 25 generals” in the room: “They looked like they were going to have a collective heart attack.” Lamontagne retracted his statement the next day.


TBP Mar 83: Unfit for Service. Four-page cover feature recounts stories of Stéphane Sirard (discharged 14 Mar 82 after being seen in a Halifax gay bar), Gloria Cameron (see Sep 77), Darl Wood (discharged 1978), Darryl Kippen (discharged 1982), and others unnamed. Sidebar, Taking the forces to court, reports some successes in the U.S. but not in Canada. A ruling on a 1978 appeal of dismissal by Forces member Jacques Gallant had said: “Relations between the Queen and Her military personnel, as such, in no way give rise to remedy in the civil courts.”


TBP Mar 85: Charter could keep gays in Armed Forces. Justice minister John Crosbie (PC) tables discussion paper, Equality Issues in Federal Law, 31 Jan 85, on policy questions created by Charter of Rights (to come into effect 17 Apr 85) — including exclusion of gay men and lesbians from the military.

TBP Apr 85: Discrimination by decree. Report that “Armed Forces have dismissed at least five women alleged to be lesbians from a base in Shelburne, Nova Scotia” (event not dated), “saying that they posed a threat to national security.” Darl Wood (see TBP Mar 83), representing the women in public, says 17 are under investigation at Shelburne.

TBP Aug 85: Unacceptable and absurd: Human rights chief trashes RCMP homophobia. CHRC’s Gordon Fairweather presents report, May 85, to Equality Rights committee (studying effect of Charter on federal policies), criticizing RCMP, and recommending abolition of Armed Forces ban on homosexuals, and examination of policy that excludes women from combat.


TBP Jan 86: Equality committee calls for gay rights (see also Federal for this story and the next two below). Calls for end to ban on homosexuals in Armed Forces and letting women serve in combat roles.

TBP Apr 86: Victory for gay equality. Government says, 4 Mar 86, it will “take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that sexual orientation is a prohibited ground of discrimination in relation to all areas of federal jurisdiction” (emphasis added). Story notes report in Toronto Star, 5 Mar 86, that Armed Forces may seek exemption based on caveat making compliance conditional on ability to remain “operationally effective.” Justice department official says they won’t get away with evasion.


Xtra 16 Oct 87: Got a Charter in our pocket. Story notes that “Armed Forces hemmed and hawed and finally said no to equality.” (Details not given.)


Xtra 8 Dec 89: Gay soldier challenges Armed Forces discrimination. After admitting he was gay in 1987, Corporal Derrick Dwyer “was hounded by special investigators, his security clearance was revoked and he was told to quit or quietly disappear.” Instead he went to the Federal Court of Canada, his case launched Jul 88 (funded by the Court Challenges Program; see Apr 86 in Federal). Armed Forces had yet to respond to legal case, had told him he stood no chance of promotion, training, or transfer — but had not dismissed him. (Federal Court later ordered reinstatement of Dwyer’s security clearance).

In same issue, a report from NDP MP Svend Robinson notes in that in May 89 the Armed Forces had suspended its policy of “involuntary release” of lesbians and gay men but, while they may remain, “their careers are in limbo.”


Xtra 11 Oct 91: Act ruled unconstitutional. In case brought by Ottawa activist Graham Haig and air force captain Joshua Burch, Ontario Court, General Division rules 23 Sep 91 that Canadian Human Rights Act violates the Charter of Rights because it does not include sexual orientation and is therefore unconstitutional. (Sexual orientation “read into” the Charter by a prior court ruling; see 24 Nov 89 in Federal.)

Xtra 27 Dec 91 (year-end compendium): Parliamentary Security Intelligence Review Committee ruled 15 Aug 91 that Canadian Armed Forces violated Charter of Rights when it released 2nd lieutenant Michelle Douglas from service because she is a lesbian. Armed Forces appealed ruling. (Douglas had been investigated by SIU in 1988 and later released.)


Xtra 21 Aug 92: Gay rights get into the act. Ontario Court of Appeal, 7 Aug 92, upholds 23 Sep 91 ruling in case of Haig and Burch. (See also in Federal.)

Xtra 30 Oct 92: Canadian Forces surrender: Court decision opens gates for lesbian and gay soldiers. Armed Forces settles with Michelle Douglas, 27 Oct 92, paying her $100,000 and agreeing to court ruling saying its policies on homosexuals violate Charter of Rights. Douglas’s lawyer Clayton Ruby says “The Federal Court has ordered the Armed Forces to cease discrimination as of this moment.” (G&M reported 28 Oct 92 that Chief of Defence Staff General John de Chastelain issued statement confirming that “Canadians, regardless of their sexual orientation, will now be able to serve their country in the Canadian Forces without restriction.”)

End of story — 21 years and 2 months after “We Demand.”

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1 Response to Individuals for the Greater Good

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