For those of us in the LGBTQ community in the US who have recently been looking North enviously at the positive and refreshing liberating leadership of PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU may be shocked to discover that there is also long history of oppression that the Canadian authorities rigidly imposed on anyone suspected of being gay. Particularly on those who had chosen to serve the Government or Country in any way.
It was Trudeau’s Prime Minister father PIERRE who, following the UK’s lead in 1969, finally dicrimanlised homsoexuality paving the way for the ending of the witch hunt of gays and lesbians.
SARAH FODEY’S compelling and rather emotional documentary is essentially of first hand accounts from elderly men and women who had been subjected to the the persecution of the paranoid fuelled Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Department of Defense in the 1950’s & 1960’s determined to purge anyone they suspected of being gay. The pretext used was that they could be blackmailed because of their sexuality and were therefore a security risk. However it was pointed out that not one single gay person ever was.
These teenagers who had been spotted by undercover surveillance or named by other frightened witnesses were hauled in by authorities and ruthlessly interrogated, sometimes for days at an end until they confessed all. As in most cases they lacked any hard evidence as to a person’s sexuality they needed a confession to justify the dismissal or discharge.
As each and everyone recounted their own particular story, now all these years later it was so easy to see the pain that they still carried with them from that experience. They are angry and bitter about having their lives ruined, some of which they never managed to put back together again., they however were the lucky ones, as others dreading being exposed as gay, took their own lives.
In fairness in those post WW2 days Canada was not alone in unfairly selecting the LGBT community as the scapegoat for many of their imaginary woes, as the US too had the little known LAVENDER SCARE that followed the McCarthy Witch Hunt and replaced communists with homosexuals as the ‘enemy’ of the people
In 2017 Prime Minister Trudeau stood up in Parliament and issued a lengthy, formal apology to gay Canadians who’d been fired from their jobs and the military during this period. He was genuinely upset when he also proposed a Bill that would let courts expunge the records of people charged with crimes due to their sexuality and urged modern Canada to adopt “forward-thinking and progressive” ideals.
It was as his father had proclaimed almost 50 years previously, that the government had no place in the bedrooms of the nation. The apology was very well received, although for some of them in this film.it was still too little and too late.
Foley’s film does us all a crucial service in placing on record important parts of our LGBTQ history, as even painful ones like these, should never be forgotten.
P.S. The title comes from the machine that scientists invented at the time to make it easy to spot who was gay. It never worked.