A North Island resident’s testimony to the parliamentary committee on veterans affairs had a direct impact on the committee’s recommendations that were released earlier this week.
North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney’s office sent out a release on Friday (June 24) saying that Sgt. Nina Usherwood — who testified about her experience as a transgender member of the armed forces to the committee for their study on fairness offered to Francophone, women and LGBTQ2S+ veterans — had a direct impact on the recommendations put out by the committee.
“It is clear that members of the (LGBTQ2S+) military community continue to face bureaucratic obstacles during their transition to civilian life as a direct result of a lack of understanding at Veterans Affairs about the LGBT purge and their unique needs,” said Blaney. “I am grateful to Sgt. Usherwood for her bravery in talking openly about her personal matters at Committee.”
Usherwood’s testimony helped shape three of the eleven recommendations. These are to provide further education for Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) employees on challenges, trauma and needs faced by LGBTQ2S+ veterans; to ensure there are better data collection tools to allow self-identification of LGBTQ2S+ veterans; and that the VAC expand the office of Women and LGBTQ2+ Veterans to ensure they can better address systemic issues.
“Between the 1950s and mid-1990s, (LGBTQ2S+) members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP and the federal public service were systematically discriminated against, harassed, and often fired as a matter of policy and sanctioned practice. In what came to be known as the ‘LGBT Purge,’ people were followed, interrogated, abused and traumatized by their own government,” the press release says.
“Veterans Affairs must immediately review and implement the recommendations contained in the report in order to offer fair service delivery to all members of the military,” said Blaney. “Anything less will be a slap in the face to Canadians who have served their country at risk of their lives.”