Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke MP Randall Garrison.

Local MP calling for LGBTQ service records to be revised

Randall Garrison calling on the defence minister to revise the service records for people who were dishonourably discharged for being LGBTQ.

The MP for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke is calling on the federal defence minister to revise the service records for people who were dishonourably discharged from the Canadian Forces for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Randall Garrison recently put forward a motion calling on the Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan, to allow the military ombudsman permission to open files before 1998, when the office was created.

The motion was approved unanimously.

“Hundreds of Canadians have already waited nearly 25 years to have the stigma of receiving a dishonourable discharge for being LGBTQ removed from their service records. It’s time to correct this injustice and further demonstrate the commitment of the Canadian Forces to acceptance of diversity,” Garrison said.

According to Garrison, who is the NDP’s LGBTQ spokesperson and defence critic, there was a team who actively searched for LGBTQ people in the military, beginning in the 1970s.

In wasn’t until 1992 that the Forces changed the rules to allow LGBTQ people to serve, however, the records of those who were dishonourably discharged for being LGBTQ prior to that were not changed.

Garrison estimates there are between 800 to 1,200 members between the 1980s and 1991 who were dishonourably discharged for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender across Canada.

“That’s nearly 25 years that, that’s been sitting there . . . (Some) are still in their 40s and they’re still carrying this dishonourable discharge on their record,” he said, adding he’s heard a number of stories from people in Esquimalt and Ottawa who were dishonourably discharged for that reason.

Members who were dishonourably discharged are also excluded from the military community and cannot join their local legions. They do not receive pensions and that record makes it difficult for them to find a job.

However, Garrison said it’s not about the money, but many simply want the government to acknowledge that they served their country honourably.

Sajjan said it’s something they will be looking at from a much wider government perspective and could possibly involve more than one department.

Garrison hopes in the future that members can apply to have the military ombudsman investigate shortly after.