Politics

Ottawa's newest national monument will honour LGBT Canadians and remember the 'purge'

The National Capital Commission has approved a site for a national monument to members of the LGBT community who for decades were purged from the federal public service because of their sexual orientation. CBC's The House met Michelle Douglas, the executive director of the LGBT Purge Fund, at the proposed site.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wipes his eye as he delivers a formal apology to LGBT people in Canada in the House of Commons in Ottawa in 2017. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rose to deliver an historic apology to LGBT Canadians in 2017, the public galleries in the House of Commons were packed to the rafters.

Michelle Douglas had a front row seat, looking directly across at Trudeau, as he apologized on behalf of the Canadian government. For decades, right up to the 1990s, members of the public service, the RCMP and the military faced discrimination and harassment, and — in many cases — were forced out of their jobs simply because of their sexual orientation.

Douglas is a survivor of the LGBT purge herself and is now executive director of the LGBT Purge Fund. The fund was created following the settlement of a class-action lawsuit against the government, launched by purge survivors.

Douglas and her team are now focused on creating a national monument to honour victims of the purge and pay tribute to LGBT Canadians who faced historic discrimination.

"I see this as a matter of reconciliation, and to memorialize especially those who never lived long enough to see this day of justice," Douglas told CBC Radio's The House.

An official unveiling is still years away, but this week a central Ottawa site was approved by the National Capital Commission. Douglas met host Chris Hall on the newly green-lit site to share her own story from this dark chapter of Canadian history.

The National Capital Commission has approved a site for a national monument to members of the LGBT community who for decades were ousted from the federal public service because of their sexual orientation. The House met Michelle Douglas, the executive director of the LGBT Purge Fund, at the proposed site. 8:16