Nova Scotia

Military's former gay policy could cost feds

A Halifax lawyer believes the Canadian government could be held financially responsible for military discrimination against homosexuals.

Lawyer says discrimination during 1980s and early 90s makes class-action possible

A Halifax lawyer and veteran of successful class-action lawsuits believes the Canadian government could be held financially responsible for military discrimination against homosexuals. 

A Halifax newspaper from 1985 details the uncovering of a 'homosexual clique' at a submarine tracking base in Shelburne, N.S. Seven people were kicked out of the military. ((CBC))

John McKiggan — who helped launch the successful class action for victims of Native residential schools, as well as the $13-million sexual abuse settlement for victims in a Roman Catholic diocese of Nova Scotia — says recent cases have set a precedent for compensation for breaches of charter rights.

"Sexual orientation is protected by the charter," McKiggan said. "If there are people who had their charter rights breached by being unfairly terminated from the military, the potential exists for a claim for all of those people."

Until 1992, Canadian Forces investigators would track down homosexuals as a potential security risk and have them fired. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted in 1982, so there's a 10-year window of potential legal responsibility.

"This is clearly a case that cries out for a remedy, it cries out for an answer," McKiggan said. "What that answer is remains to be seen."

McKiggan said a possible case could face legal hurdles, including the fact that the policy ended 18 years ago. However, he believes there's a possibility of a class-action lawsuit because the discrimination was part of a concerted national policy.

"When issues like this come up that have been ignored for a very long time, the first inclination is to ignore it," he said. "But now that it's been outed, so to speak, the Canadian government is going to be forced to address the decisions that were made by the military, and come up with an appropriate response. They're not going to have any choice but to do that."

McKiggan would not say if he's been contacted by anyone seeking compensation for losing their military job due to their sexual orientation.