School Paper on Gay Discrimination

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    Mar 13, 2010 3:51 PM GMT
    Hey ya'll, heres a paper im workin on. Its about the discrimination of gays in Canada during the Cold War. Still a draft, so dont mind the mistakes. I figure its useful information for all to know - gotta know where you came from to go anywhere!

    The Cold War emerged out of political conflict, military tension and economic rivalry. It was largely between the western world nations and the USSR along with its eastern bloc companion nations, the main conflict being over the post-WWII occupation of Europe. Canada played a role in the conflicts as it was heavily attached to the United States by way of economics, trade, and culture – however up until 1946 it laid low on the involvement scale (Yergin 1977). Igor Gouzenko changed Canada’s involvement in a very significant way and subsequently had a hand in beginning what this paper will discuss. Gouzenko opened the eyes of Canadian and other international security agencies to the Soviet spy rings which were set up in Canada by exposing Stalin’s plans to steal nuclear secrets and more importantly explaining just what and how those spy rings operated (Marcuse, Whitaker 1994). The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Security Service sharpened their skills with the “Gouzenko Affair” by stepping up to the position as the national front against communism (Cavell 2000). Before moving onto the principle component of this paper, subversion must be explained. In the context of this paper, and the historical timeline this piece will cover, subversion refers to the separation of those with social or political views that are deemed not ‘normal’ or those that go against the national framework of beliefs. Once a group is labelled as subversive, it can lose its human and citizenship rights. Communists were not the only group labelled as subversive, African Canadians, Quebec Separatists, and even high school students have been labelled as subversive at some point in Canadian history (Cavell 2000). It was not till this time of uneasiness and fear that homosexuals were ever labelled as subversive, or a threat at all. The RCMP began to draw lines connecting their perceived nature of homosexuals to communists with statements like “by exercising fairly simple precautions, homosexuals are usually able to keep their habits hidden from those who are not specifically seeking them out.” Homosexuals were then hunted down. They were hunted according to the same method as communists were – a method reminiscent of a ‘witch hunt’ (Sawatsky 1980). This paper will discuss the RCMP’s view of homosexuals during the Cold War years of 1952 – 1962, the shift in opinions of Canadian government on the idea of persecuting homosexuals during the early 1960’s as well as the RCMP’s reactions to this, and finally the RCMP’s mandate on homosexuals during the final years of the Cold War, including a comparison of modern day views of homosexuality and how the RCMP is currently operating.
    Soviet spy rings were brought to the attention of the RCMP by Igor Gouzenko and they were seen as a secret evil which could only, at best, be monitored and kept out of the Canadian government information loop. Any weak link or possible informant to them was therefore targeted by the RCMP Security Service (Yergin 1977). At this time, blackmail was a popular tactic being utilized by the soviets to garner information from Canadian and American governments and they were targeting those civil servants that appeared like they had secrets to hide. These blackmail-able pawns included “alcoholics, compulsive gamblers, large debtors, and people practicing a whole range of sexual taboos such as patronizing prostitutes, indulging in unusual sexual behaviour, having extra-marital affairs [and] engaging in bigamy (Sawatsky 1980).” Canadian security and the RCMP knew it could not afford to employ anyone who would expose its intelligence to the Soviets, especially after the American’s incident with its National Security Agency (NSA). In 1960 two former employees of the NSA, whom were homosexual, defected to Russia and held a news conference where they explained the details of the NSA – the United States’ most secret organization. This led the NSA to fire 26 of its members due to ‘sexual deviation’ on their parts (Sawatsky 1980). This incident is what brought homosexuals to the forefront of those that could be blackmailed in Canada. Nowhere was this more apparent in Canada then with the Communications Branch, the Canadian equivalent of the NSA. An employee at the branch who was found to be a homosexual never had his or her loyalty or honesty questioned – they were simply terminated (Sawatsky 1980). It was, at this point, simply for reasons that the Americans could find out what signals Canada was receiving from the Soviets and, using similar blackmail as the Soviet spy rings, increase the amount of information they would receive. At this point, the Americans were receiving less information from the Soviets than Canada was (Sawatsky 1980).
    In order to justify to the general public and legitimize the firing of so many homosexuals, the RCMP formed the A-3 unit. This unit which operated within the RCMP itself targeted not only homosexuals in its force but also the public. It was considered to be the farthest reaching unit in comparison to all other units at the time and furthered its mandate by always referring back to the imminent threat of blackmail. It searched out over 3000 suspected or alleged homosexual cases and purged many members out of their jobs (Sawatsky 1980). In order for the unit and the RCMP as a whole to rationalize its actions it ran the A-3 unit under the directive of reforming the deviant sexual liberties that arose in post WWII. As well, it felt that heterosexuality should be the national sexuality and this national sense of sameness would prove to keep the nation ‘loyal and safe’ (Cavell 2000).
    The A-3 unit utilized a few different tactics in its ‘war on queers,’ as it was often known as. Many of its first stings on homosexuals were coordinated in popular gay men’s hangouts. One of these around the late 1950’s was the Lord Elgin Hotel tavern in Ottawa. RCMP undercover agents would frequent the tavern with a camera hidden behind a newspaper and photograph all patrons. In addition, the agent would strike up conversation with the patrons and attempt to have them name other gay men they were in contact with (Cavell 2000). This led to many further interrogations and thus took a large amount of time for the RCMP, however the A-3 unit was a top priority unit as previously mentioned and homosexuals were at the top of the threat list for the RCMP. In interrogations of those that were identified as possible homosexuals many of the men being interrogated knew what the repercussions were for being a homosexual. The men also knew the fear tactics the RCMP would use on them, thus almost all who faced the questioning even those not in fact gay, would admit defeat and be stripped of their positions (Cavell 2000). Not all members of the RCMP or the Navy lost their membership with the forces; some were simply moved to lower ranking positions or less security sensitive placements. Those workers in the Communication Branch or the External Affairs Departments however mainly lost their job and any sort of affiliation with their respective departments (Cavell 2000).
    Another approach used in the ‘war on queers’ during the cold war was ‘The Fruit Machine’ as it was affectionately known by those who administered and knew of its operation. The fruit machine’s function, essentially, was to determine which subject was homosexual by displaying images of nude men and nude women in addition to other mundane images and measure the dilation of a subject’s pupils. The more one’s pupils dilated with images of nude men the higher likelihood of them being, in fact, homosexual (Kinsman 1995). Now, any grade 9 science student of the modern day could explain that one pupil’s dilate according to th
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    Mar 13, 2010 3:57 PM GMT
    amount of light being shone on them or the intensity of an image’s contrast, but to scientists back in these times, it was the most advanced form of ‘gaydar.’ Soon enough, its flaws were discovered by test subjects as it had a very high success rate and no one would willingly take the test. With the abolishment of the fruit machine came a return to the method of interrogations (Kinsman 1995). The Directorate of Security and Intelligence for the RCMP described his work as hanging around with gay men and discussing the parties they had been at and if any photos they had of alleged or suspected gay men were there at those parties (Sawatsky 1980).
    Overall, these methods were seen to be unreliable. They continued on through the 1960’s and over 9000 men and women in Canada were questioned, pressured and faced unemployment. This was done in the name of national security and safeguarding the multiple branches of the government from leaking its classified information to the Soviets and at times Americans (Cavell 2000).
    In 1959, Don Wall of the Privy Council of Canada began to hear of the RCMP’s actions toward homosexuals and felt it was time for an investigation to be put in place. The RCMP failed to report any of their actions to the Privy Council or any higher authority for that matter in the past pertaining to their interrogations or endeavours such as the fruit machine. Don Wall and Bob Bryce, secretary to the cabinet and chairman of the Security Panel (Sawatsky 1980), began to research “whether distinctions could be made or drawn between homosexuals who constituted a security risk and those who did not.” The research, which ran from 1959-62 proved the fact that homosexuality was, in fact, not a choice and that sudden job terminations were unlawful and unnecessary (Sawatsky 1980). Any further allegations of a homosexual employee being a threat to national security were to be individually assessed on a case by case basis and the challenging cases were to be dealt with only by Don Wall. His basis for determining whether they posed a risk or not was established by a one-on-one interview with them, if they spoke freely of their sexuality they were usually deemed to be non-threatening. The task was difficult for Wall as, by this point, most men who were thought to be homosexuals were weary of the new policy and had zero to no confidence in their superiors. In relation to the cold war and the soviet’s use of homosexuality as a tool for blackmail, this new process and understanding of homosexuality by Canada ended the possibility of blackmail (Sawatsky 1980). Firings of homosexuals in the RCMP, the Navy and the Communications Branch was set to almost zero, the only remaining prejudice being that they were less likely to be sent overseas as the risk of recruitment by other national security organizations was greater (Sawatsky 1980).
    The RCMP fought the new policy on homosexuality as it continued to believe homosexuals posed a risk to the nation. The policy mistakenly did not remove homosexuality from the list of criminal offenses; it simply proclaimed it to not be classified as a ‘character weakness’ – even though it was proven to not be a lifestyle choice, rather, a trait one is born with. The RCMP continued to terminate positions even though it found much respected positions to be filled by homosexuals (Janoff 2005). Instead of realizing the lack of a security threat posed by the men, it tightened up its search and further developed its A-3 unit. The unit even went as far as having a list of ‘homosexual indicators.’ These indicators included driving a white car, wearing a ring on the pinky finger, wearing tight fitting clothing, divorcing ones wife, promiscuous sexual activity (seen as a way of driving the gay out of oneself), and even growing one’s hair (Sawatsky 1980).
    A turning point with the RCMP and their directive against homosexuals was in the year 1967 when Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who served as the Justice Minister at the time, introduced the Omnibus bill which declared homosexuality legal between consenting adults (Janoff 2005). The RCMP eventually put an end to their intensive search for homosexuals but the Internal Security Branch remained intact and had/has the ordinance to investigate any and all matters pertaining to its members that it deemed a threat (Janoff 2005). The RCMPs views on homosexuality transformed into what sociologists Elizabeth Grace and Colin Leys called, they grey area. Their acceptance of homosexuals was outlined such that one who is in fact homosexual was not unlawful, but any act of homosexuality was deemed unlawful or illegal (Cavell 2000).
    In the years that followed the Omnibus bill and the general public’s slow acceptance of homosexuality, the RCMP began to feel retaliation from those it attempted to interrogate. Gays and lesbians in the late 1960’s started to react against the RCMP security measures in bars and thus compromised their search. They developed a code of behaviour amongst themselves to not inform the RCMP of any other gays or lesbians and to react to questions with humour and camp. This of course developed into gay and lesbian networks and movements and these are what were investigated once the 1970s and 1980s rolled around as they were ‘subversive’. The term gay political activist and radical lesbian were used to classify what was being surveyed and analysed (Janoff 2005). Gays and lesbians who faced discrimination and possible job termination by the RCMP were interviewed and thus information came out that aided in understanding the work performed by security operatives which was not recorded in the Access of Information Act. Information also came out about how international relations were affected by the ‘war on queers’ (Cavell 2000)
    By the 1990’s the RCMP had altered a portion of its extreme directives towards homosexuals, but it still had not done enough when compared to other large police forces in Canada. If, for example, one is to look at how the RCMP dealt with homosexual hate crimes, a popular and still growing crime epidemic, it pales in comparison to other police force’s efforts. In comparison to other police units in Canada, it ultimately came down to how the crimes were classified. For the RCMP, the Operational Statistics Reporting system is where all details of an offense are documented. Of over 500 codes, only one was being used to classify hate crimes of any sort. The Toronto Police unit alone surpassed the amount of hate crimes recorded by the RCMP for the year 1998 in only 6 months of that same year (Janoff 2005). The RCMP sorted crime under many other classifications before it placed them under a hate crime classification. For example “if a driver got out of his car, yelled ‘faggot,’ and beat up the other driver” it would be classified as a traffic incident (Janoff 2005). The RCMP is unfortunately not the only Canadian trustworthy institution that has carried a negative attitude toward homosexuals in the past. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has been known to deny security clearance to non-out homosexuals as they ran the risk of being ‘blackmail-able,’ similar to the logic used by the RCMP in the cold war. Public service employees who have not yet revealed their homosexuality also run the risk of being exposed against their wills to both their families and the public (Cavell 2000).
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    Mar 13, 2010 4:04 PM GMT

    Interesting stuff, but I'm a bit confused here. Trudeau made homosexuality legal etc is '67? It wasn't til '73 that it was decided it was no longer a psychiatric deviation that could be treated with everything up to and if necessary, shock treatment.


    -Doug
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    Mar 13, 2010 4:08 PM GMT
    Correct. For the purpose of the paper however, this change in '73 did not affect the RCMP's directive.
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    Mar 13, 2010 4:50 PM GMT
    interesting stuff...thanks for sharing