Gary Kinsman's book Canadian War on Queers takes on gay issues in government

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After 17 years of research, a gay sociology professor at Laurentian University has published a book he hopes will awaken Canadians to decades-long “Canadian state” discrimination against gays and lesbians in the name of national security.

“The government has yet to fully apologize for the lives and careers that it destroyed,” Gary Kinsman told the Georgia Straight by phone from the university’s campus in Sudbury. “And it seems to me that this is really important. The people whose lives and careers were destroyed at least need to be compensated for what happened to them.”

The 554-page book The Canadian War on Queers: National Security as Sexual Regulation (UBC Press) was coauthored with Patrizia Gentile, assistant professor in the Pauline Jewett Institute of Women’s and Gender Studies at Carleton University. It documents numerous accounts of the RCMP and the Canadian military using national security as a ruse to prevent “out” gays and lesbians from getting jobs in the civil service or holding any federal position requiring national-security clearance.

“So from 1958 on in Canada, basically, lesbians and gay men were constructed as being national-security risks, and therefore could be purged from our jobs, could be demoted to lower-level positions whereby we had no access to security-related information,” Kinsman said. “There were all sorts of things that went on. This affected tens of thousands of people. Thousands of people were purged. The RCMP, by ’67 and ’68, had a list of 8,000 suspected homosexuals in the Ottawa area.”

Even though the surveillance began under former prime minister John Diefenbaker about 50 years ago, Kinsman said there are still unresolved issues today.

“It’s still possible for someone to be denied a security clearance if they are deemed to have something to hide,” he said. “It’s still reality in many people’s lives that they still have to hide their sexuality for lots of reasons, including the very real forms of social discrimination that they may face.”¦They continue, often, to survive in a ”˜heterosexist’ regime of terror.”

Janine Fuller, manager of Little Sister’s Book & Art Emporium in Vancouver, told the Straight she has read the book.

“I think it really contextualizes the history of Canada in a way that no book has ever done,” she said by phone. “I think it’s going to be a starting point for every academic and anyone who cares about the history of free speech and state intrusion in this country.”

Kinsman said he is hoping prominent gay and lesbian MPs, such as the New Democratic Party’s Bill Siksay and Libby Davies, will use the “ammunition” in the book to ask questions in the House of Commons and demand answers to the wrongs that have been committed in Canada’s name.

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