My name is Danielle Dewitt. I'm currently serving in National Defence. I've been in for 14 years. I came out as transgender when I was deployed overseas, surprisingly, and was roughly removed from a ship in Germany.
One of the first times I came aboard and left the ship.... I found that it was very hard from the other side now, trying to be the teacher and the student at the same time. Being one of the first ones out as transgender had a big effect on things. It was a very big eye-opener, going from the male side to the female side, seeing all the discrimination on the male side, and how much it actually did affect all of the female members.
There was some verbal abuse toward me when I was first coming out, which acted as a means for them to remove me from all ships. As an active serving navy member, that was a very big blow to my psyche. They threw me in an office, to help me transition properly.
Even in the office, I was verbally abused—not by my co-workers, but by people coming in to do regular business. I told my chain of command what had happened, and my chain of command said, “This happens all the time.”
We have a program called Operation Honour. It's not working a hundred per cent. Female members have made complaints and inquiries. Once the investigations are done, investigators decide that there's no actual harm done.
The most recent one was when I was sent to Victoria, and put back on the ships. During fleet navigation-officer training, when I was in charge of training officers, I was degraded. I was crying every night, because they didn't have any respect for anybody who was transgender. I brought this up to my chain of command, and during their investigation, nothing was done—just a slap on the wrist for everybody involved in this.
I talked to other females in my unit—there are only three of us—and all of us said the same thing. Operation Honour has not worked. It has actually failed. There is a long way to go before we can continue going further.
I'm sorry. I'm very nervous.
What needs to happen.... The treatment I see of women is very poor. I was given the position of senior boatswain on board my ship. It was taken away from me, and given to a male. Even though I proved to be a really good sailor, this person was told, “You're now in charge of the ship.” I was up on the high horse, and then brought down almost immediately, due to their timing.
Their excuse was that the other person had been in this unit longer, even though I have 14 years in the military, and that person only has six. They were using that as the excuse, but I felt deeply that it was because I was female. I was putting complaints against people left, right and centre for mistreating me as a transgendered female. I felt that I was being discriminated against. I brought this up and, once again, nothing happened. I still fight to this day to get my position back, and to this day, I don't have it back.
With all the negative effects on the LGBT community in the military, I have now been taken off the boats, once again, due to mental distress. I was told that if I died, I'd be buried as a male, because my chromosomes don't match.
Nothing was done to the member. It hasn't been a very fun time.
As for the treatment of the women inside, I've noticed the same thing. I've talked to other females, and they have noticed that positions have been given away to their male counterparts.
There was a ship that was completely female—the whole deck department, which is all boatswains. They tried that for a time. That no longer exists. I don't know why that ended, but maybe everybody got posted out, or whatever.
That's pretty much all I have.
Thank you for inviting me here today.
I'm a veteran. I'm a 30-year public servant. Currently, I'm employed by the Department of Justice here in Ottawa. I'd like to simply make it clear that I'm speaking in my own personal capacity and on behalf of the LGBT Purge Fund.
I am a very interested observer of the Canadian Armed Forces, and I'll explain why. I served in the Canadian Armed Forces as an officer between 1986 and 1989. I was an officer in the security branch, which is like the military police branch, and I had hoped to make it my career. I was off to a very good start. I was the top graduate of every military class and course I ever took. However, a long career was not meant to be.
Following multiple brutal, intense interrogations and police investigations, I was purged from the military in 1989 under the classification of being “not advantageously employable due to homosexuality”. This was despite the fact that I was a loyal, hard-working and excellent service member.
My subsequent legal challenge against the Canadian Armed Forces and its codified form of discrimination in 1992 was directly responsible for the formal ending of Canada's ban on LGBT service members, and I haven't stopped fighting since.
I feel that it's an obligation of mine to keep an eye on the military to ensure that it lives up to the best of its promise. As we see today and as I've just heard in witness testimony from Danielle, that's not quite the case.
I'll tell you some of my observations. Of course, I don't intend to speak for lesbians or transgender service members, but I do think that it's helpful for you to hear about some of the evolution in policy and changes made over the 30 years.
By and large, I believe that the military's policy regarding inclusion, particularly towards women—both cisgender women and transgender women—is actually quite good. The military has, of course, all of the things that they must have: pay parity, access to career paths, family support and so on. The establishment of the sexual misconduct response centre is a good thing and so was the establishment of Operation Honour.
Now what we know, though, is that policy is vital, but practice counts.
I recently read all four editions of the progress reports on Operation Honour. What you'll see is something quite interesting when you dig into the details. They gloss over, for example, any of the activities that need to be focused on LGBT issues, although in her report in 2015, Madam Deschamps clearly stressed that women and LGBT people needed special attention. The last report is completely silent on the military's activities for LGBT people. The last time a progress report addressed them was in 2016.
Generally, I think the military should actually be commended for some of its leadership in the pursuit of an open, diverse and truly inclusive military. In this way, we stand in stark contrast to most of the rest of the world. For example, just last month, I was in Washington, D.C. where I attended a rally in support of transgender service members in the U.S. armed forces. Of course, you see people who are capable, loyal, brave and committed to the service of their country. However, through a tweet in 2017, their commander-in-chief simply said that they are not accepted or allowed “to serve in any capacity in the U.S. [armed forces].”
In contrast, here in Canada mere hours after that 2017 tweet, I personally took enormous comfort from seeing 's tweet—no doubt it was coincidental in timing—that simply reinforced that all Canadians “of all sexual orientations and gender identities” are welcome to serve, with an enthusiastic “Join us!” at the end. He's right about that. That's supportive.
Having spent a fair bit of time with active duty military personnel in military facilities recently, including, for example, NDHQ and CFB Moose Jaw, my sense is that progress towards inclusion is actually getting much better. I saw this is a matter of leadership. I thought it sincere and not just for show. As we can see, there are still real gaps, though, to be addressed.
I visited CFB Moose Jaw and talked about LGBT history and was invited to speak with the colonel of the base, that's the 15 Wing commander, who aired the film The Fruit Machine, chronicling the story of Canada's shameful purge history. In his opening remarks, Colonel O'Reilly made it clear he would never tolerate discrimination of misconduct on his base and would drive out those who couldn't adhere to those rules of respect. He said he likes to adhere to those rules of respect. He said he likes to think of it as another form of purge if there is intolerance. I'm not sure I like that word used too much in that context, but nevertheless his sentiment was right.
Zero tolerance policies, of course, tend to be aspirational. The military is not unique in this regard. But the culture and environment there means it's among the most vigilant places to do everything they can to support those policies. Work in supporting these policies needs to be innovative, effective and constant if there's a hope of being a greater employer for the 15% or so of the military who are women.
The military should continue to be pushed at all levels to set up positive space campaigns, LGBT working groups and pride networks. Women who are part of the LGBT community need these resources. Service members need a place to go that's safe to seek advice and guidance on how to engage with or be supportive of colleagues who are LGBT who may be transitioning, non-binary or part of the LGBT community. We know these places exist but only in a few bases, so if the indication from leadership is that they're across the military and this is widely embraced, it's just not the case. They can do much better in this regard.
Wrapping up, I'd like to talk a little bit about training. It's imperative not just for new recruits, but at every level. Officers and everyone else need to be part of the foundational support that's given around effective diversity and respectful workplace training policies.
Soldiers today need to know about their history. It was only 30 years ago—everyone here remembers where they were 30 years ago—that the military was purging LGBT service members. The history needs to be shared if we're ever to live up to what the recently said in 2017, which is that he's committed to never letting this happen again. LGBT service members need to be an integrated part of all of the diversity and equality strategies. Seeking input from the community should be embraced and deliberately sought out. Feedback has to be integrated from people to whom it matters most.
In closing, I'd like to let the committee know that your next witness, Madam Martine Roy, and I are working together on some of these reconciliation measures through the administration of a $15-million to $25-million fund here in Canada. We're going to be doing some incredible things like supporting the military in their training. We're also going to be building a national monument in the national capital region to acknowledge the purge period and for LGBT people. We're collecting historical documents so that we know why some of these policies happen. We want to be part of the solution in making Canada a more inclusive and diverse place, but particularly for the public service, military and RCMP.
Thank you for having me.
My name is Martine Roy. Right now, I work for TD Bank in LGBTQI business development. I want to say this because it is important; it is a new role. However, I am not here to talk about this role.
Today I'm here to represent the LGBT Purge as the president. Michelle Douglas presented it well. I won't go back to what happened, because the same thing happened to me. I was in the regular forces and I was arrested, interrogated and let go for homosexuality.
When I was in the army, in training at Borden, everything was highly sexualized. The access to the outside, the really inexpensive alcohol and the group effect made the place perfect for this sort of aggression.
There are those who have just arrived, the recruits. People who have been in the army for a long time and away from their families come for their training and find themselves in the same place as the recruits. Something needs to be done about that. I hear that it is still happening in the same places.
The next point I want to make is important to me. The first letter in “LGBT” is “L”. It represents women. In any organization, we women must take our place, because things are unfair right from the get-go. Since there are far fewer women than men, things are unfair. This creates an imbalance and undermines respect for women.
For me, this is important because we just heard from somebody who went through a transition. I think she witnessed being a white man and then becoming a woman. She is not transsexual for me anymore. She's a woman. I think that to understand what it meant to be a white cisgender male at the top of his line and then to become a woman, she must have felt the discrimination.
I am here in front of you, yes, to talk about LGBT, but mostly to talk about women. I think this is the subject. Why is it that in a lot of industry—I'm not just talking about the military—we still have this issue in 2019? When a woman can go into combat and when we know that woman can do as much as man, why don't we achieve that respect, so that we don't get aggression anymore?
I've brought to my paper a lot of research about how aggression is still happening today in the Canadian Armed Forces. I may be less positive than my colleague, Michelle Douglas, over what's happening because I have a feeling, when I look at numbers—and it's the same for Danielle, the first person who spoke—that we are still having major issues.
It's like in 1969 when we decriminalized homosexuality, it didn't stop there. It's not because there's a law or a policy in place, and all the officers are embracing that policy, that in the rank or in the platoon this is understood.
My colleague brought to us the fact of The Fruit Machine. We're going around with that movie where people testify what happened to them and we realize it has a great impact. I think we need to go into the ranks. We need to go inside. I believe that, after all the investigation—and I pulled the numbers but I'm not going to bring them all to you because I think you do understand and this is why we're sitting in front of you today—there is still an issue and we need to find some resolution to it.
I worked for about 30 years in different corporations after I was fired, and I can tell you that it's not, as I said, just in the Canadian Armed Forces. But I think if we can really find the right way to go inside and give training and education to people like this, ignorance won't keep happening. When everybody knows, they can't tell you that they didn't know. Everybody takes ownership.
When we talk about allies, they're not just heterosexual. Allies are lesbian. They're homosexual. They're transsexual. We need to be allies for each other and we need to have allies outside as well. If everybody would embrace diversity and inclusion and understand that in the workplace, the most important thing is your skill, how much you will achieve in your job, how good you are at your work and how much you will want to stay there, we would have good retention and we would attract the best talent. As the workplace takes up 75% of our time, I think it's a place where we have to show our skill, be able to be in collaboration, and respect each other.
I was really saddened by the number I saw. I was really saddened to see that we're still doing that. As a woman and a lesbian, I can tell you that there are still a lot of issues of respect toward the gender of women and toward the gender of women transsexuals and bisexuals. There are still some issues of respect, and we need some help.
I think that tone-setting at the earliest opportunity from the Canadian Armed Forces is absolutely vital. As part of the recruitment process and some of the early indications.... I think that there is not only the expression of the exciting part of the military, which obviously is a point of appeal at the moment of recruitment, but in terms of the standards, there's the indication of the expectation of compliance with the regulations around misconduct, and highlighting them at the earliest opportunity is vital.
I think that's part of it, because people need to know what they're getting into. If they can't comport themselves, if they can't respect the rules and what the standards are, then really... They either have to sign up and be fully committed or that's not the place for them.
I think the leadership of the military is actually quite sincerely committed, from everything I've seen and heard. I believe them, and I am not, on these things, inclined to be giving trust easily. The people I've talked to are invested in making this work. As you know, I think the early steps around codifying these things—around the rules and the definitions of misconduct—that's the vital stuff that is happening, and it's one of the conditions for change that Danielle is talking about that needs to happen.
Yes, I would say that you're going to also retain the recruits you keep if you create an open, harassment-free work environment.
I agree with that at the recruit level. I think at the recruit level it is important, but also, all along. A lot of the time, we think that it's the onboarding. We give all the dos and don'ts in the onboarding, but then it goes, and we never come back to it. We never talk about it. I think that at every moment, at every transition and in every new platoon, it should be brought back. It should be a top point. It should be “part of”.
The way we see it is that LGBT is not a social group, and women are not a little social group on the side. It's part of the business. It's part of the core. If you're going to have women in the military, the military will not be the same. It has to be seen as being the core of it. As important and as valuable as a man can be, a woman can be to the same level.
I think we're trying, because I see that are camps and there are 10-day trials and things like that, so it brings in women to go. Those are nice initiatives, I think.
I do agree with Michelle. I did meet some captains, one who started the diversity-plus group—LGBT—for the Canadian Armed Forces. That's a good initiative, because then that group gets everybody. Hats off: the captains, the privates and the adjutants. They're all together for a better cause. You have, inside your troops, people working on it. That would be a great thing if that could grow. I think it could help.
Fundamentally, I'm a supporter of the Canadian Armed Forces. They matter to our country. I believe they uphold the best values of our country, and I appreciate the sacrifice, dedication and commitment of people who serve their country in this way.
I wanted to be one of them for a long time. It didn't work out. If invited to go back and serve my country in the military, I would not do it. Now I'm too old.
However, my service to this country can come in other ways. One of the ways I am doing that, and in fact, have done for the last 30 years, is to be an ever-present voice to try to make sure the military is upholding the values that they claim to.
Inclusion doesn't work if people don't feel included. Diversity, if it's only a matter of rhetoric and concept, isn't enough. I just think, as a Canadian who is interested, it's my duty to keep pushing.
The nice thing is that when you measure it over the course of some 30 years, you do see change. You see that it's getting better. I'm an optimist. Even though the military changed my life and humiliated me at times, I'm still trying to serve in a different way and make them a better organization.
Thank you. This is a very good question and for me, like Michelle, that was horrible to go through. My whole life changed and one day.... It took me 10 years to find work that I felt good in, and it took me 10 years to take a risk, and that was to go work for a very big corporation. I did, and when I found out they were inclusive and all that, I said, “Here we go, I have to tell everybody”, and that's how I started Pride at Work Canada in 2008.
It was my way to say that what happened to me, I don't want to happen to anybody else at any work, because I don't think it should. In creating Pride at Work Canada, I started with eight companies. There are now 120 companies, and my goal was to get the Canadian Armed Forces to join, which they did in 2016. That's why I'm so engaged, but at the same time, I was feeling at one point that what I was saying did not fit with what I was doing, because I accepted that I was thrown out of the Canadian Armed Forces, and I didn't do anything.
That's why I had to do the class action. I had to settle this, and not for only me. When I discovered there were others like me, like Michelle, and there were many of us, it gave me more reason to fight and to say that we cannot go on and say that we're a country of peace, that we're innovators with diversity and all that if we don't clean up our space, and we needed to clear that. We needed to first admit we did it, because no one ever did, and then apologize for it, which we just did. Now we repair, and all those are great things. This is why I'm still in front of you today and I'm still debating that, because I believe we can make it. I believe we can be that inclusive country and that we can teach others. I believe that.
In my opinion, that's what it is. I've talked to other people, and everybody knows what Operation Honour is, but for the most part, a lot of people, when it first came out, kept saying, “Oh, it's hop on her”, i.e. Op Honour. Comments are always being made that this is now a very fake thing. Units took advantage of that, and so they made it Operation Honour. We cannot use the short-form version of the name anymore.
They do it every year, or every unit is supposed to. The problem is that a lot of units are not all available, so not everybody's there, and when they do it, it's part of a PD day, shall we say, and it's done midday, so people are already getting tired, hungry or cranky, and I don't believe people are paying full attention to what it is about, and those who do pay attention have heard it so many times that it's now getting dry.
One of the biggest things I've realized is that they don't really publish too much to everybody of what's going on with the Operation Honour side of it. What was the outcome? We don't need to know the full story of what happened, but what was the outcome of this Operation Honour investigation?
Due to the fact that it's in-unit most of the time, you'll never know. The two parties involved never tell anybody what's going on, because they want to keep it as low as they can and not have it spreading around, but let's face it: a navy ship is like a high school. A rumour starts, and in five seconds it's all around the whole ship, so we try to keep it low.
I think there's still skepticism about how they're going to be treated. I think fear is still there. Exactly that: you go from one base to the other and it's not the same. You just talked about Madame Deschamps. Madame Deschamps just talked again, four years later, right? She's saying that, for her, she still doesn't see the global strategy. She still doesn't see that it's everywhere.
There are things that we need to highlight that we change. Maybe it's not communicated enough that we have those programs that women can just go and try for 10 days. I didn't know about it. Maybe there's more recruitment we need to do—young people at university or events. I never saw the Canadian Armed Forces at an event where I go for recruitment of new talent. That would be interesting.
As well, they need to be more aligned toward women. What is it that women like? We know what men like. What is it that women like? Me, I know I was a medical assistant because I like to help. I know that, as a woman, I like to help. That was one of the roles I chose in the army. That was the first role I chose in the army. What else could we highlight that are those really specific roles that women would like to do in the army? When I see publicity, it talks a lot about the combat, about all those things. Maybe we should talk a little bit more about something that women would see themselves in. We have to see ourselves; it has to reflect ourselves, I find.
For me, the army is like a big corporation. It's the same thing. It needs to go everywhere, to every base. Everybody has to embrace it. There should be a quality person who goes around and verifies. We laugh about those ISO 9000s—it's the same thing, a bit.
My experience in knowing precisely how these young women, in particular at RMC and other feeder organizations, will form the officer cadre is not as current as it might be, so I would just indicate that.
We know the condition of young women now, particularly going to university, hold many expectations. They're smart and dynamic, and have a sense of their own place in advancing organizations. That, combined with some educational training on recent history, provides the grounding for actually having quite a progressive armed forces leadership cadre emerging. We're already seeing it now.
There is the expression that it's tough to teach an old dog new tricks. I don't mean to analogize anyone, only to say that people who have been grounded in tradition and people who have been grounded in dated thinking actually can be retrained to be quite progressive and real leaders in this new environment.
That's what we need to see from our current military leadership. They'll be supported and encouraged, and frankly, it will be insisted upon by those who are coming in from the military institutions, like RMC.
I can't really explain too much on the RMC side of it, but I do see officers on a daily basis, as my job is to train officers. I'm usually their first interaction with an LGBT member in the trans world, and they're all usually shocked and amazed, “Oh my God, there's a trans person on this boat. What do I do?”
I teach them. What we've discussed with HMCS Venture, the people who train the officers on shore, is that I would be going in to talk to them every so often, to give them more of an introduction before they actually get to the ship, where they have to work with me directly.
My last knowledge of it is that there's actually a major...There are two majors, Major Foss, and I don't remember the other major's name. The other major works at RMC. The officers who come in from RMC should have some knowledge of a transgender member.
Once again, it all starts with recruiting. I have several friends who wanted to join the armed forces. I contacted the recruiting centre to find out what they needed to do to get in as transgender members, and it had no idea. The recruitment centre had no idea how to treat transgender members, even if they're allowed to join while they're still transitioning.
In talking to them, they have to be physically and medically transitioned first before they can join the military. I don't know if that's policy. I don't know what's going on, because I haven't been able to find any documentation that says otherwise. Either you stop your transition, do basic training, and then medically transition or you medically transition and then join the military.