Canada’s inclusion of gays and lesbians in the military seamless: study

Andy Radia
Canada PoliticsSeptember 20, 2011

One of the top news stories in the United States today is about gays and lesbians being allowed in the military, openly, for the first time in almost a century.

The "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning openly gay men and women from serving in the U.S. military officially expires today — almost 20 years after Canada allowed gays into its military.

Americans have President Barack Obama to thank for repealing the discriminatory law, while Canadians have the Supreme Court to thank.

In 1989, Michelle Douglas was discharged from her position in the military because she was, "not advantageously employable due to homosexuality."  She challenged her dismissal on the grounds it was in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights.

In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled in her favour, noting the policy barring homosexuals from the Canadian military indeed violated the Charter.

The Canadian government and military officials accepted the federal court decision with little resistance.

"Canadians, regardless of the sexual orientation, will now be able to serve their country in the Canadian Forces without restriction," Gen. John de Chastelain said in a statement at the time.

Allowing gays and lesbians in to the the Canadian military has apparently been a seamless exercise.

A University of California study of the Canadian military's experience of allowing gays and lesbians into the military did not hurt morale, military readiness, or recruitment, as some conservatives in the U.S. argued.

The study, considered the most comprehensive academic study of homosexuality in a foreign military ever compiled, also notes none of the 905 assault cases in the Canadian Forces from November, 1992 (when the ban was lifted) until August, 1995 involved "gay bashing" or could be attributed to the sexual orientation of one of the parties.

Today, allowing gays in the military is big news in the United States, which might have some Canadians wondering: "What's the big deal?"

Hopefully, sometime in the not-so-distant future, Americans will wonder the same.

(CP Photo)