VAC opens office for women and LGBTQ2 veterans

June 2, 2020 by Sharon Adams

Minister of Veterans Affairs Lawrence MacAulay announced on March 3 that Veterans Affairs Canada has opened an Office of Women and LGBTQ2 Veterans.

“Women and LGBTQ2 service members continue to represent Canada in uniform, as they have for more than a century,” said MacAulay. The office, he said, would help the department provide these veterans “with the care and support they earned and deserve.”

“We appreciate their acknowledgement that women and LGBTQ2+ veterans have not always had specific needs addressed and that more needs to be done,” said Cathy Potts, chair of the Rainbow Veterans of Canada, which represents Canadian Armed Forces veterans who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or two-spirit.

“We…look forward to working with Veterans Affairs to ensure fair access to treatment and service and remove barriers for LGBTQ2+ veterans,” she added. “This is an important part of our advocacy work.”

In 2016, VAC reported female veterans were more likely to have a difficult adjustment to civilian life, and had higher rates of living with disabilities, followed in 2017 by a workshop and gender-based analysis of transition to civilian life. Since July 2019, VAC has worked with veterans and advocates to identify barriers to women and LGBTQ2 veterans.

The new office, which has six staff, is working to identify and meet the specific needs of these veterans, and to ensure fair treatment and services, but it will not work on individual cases, said VAC spokesman Marc Lescoutre.

The office will work to eliminate barriers and “help influence research, develop ideas and solutions to challenges and promote strong collaboration,” said a VAC release.

There are more than 90,000 female veterans in Canada, and no estimate of the number of LGBQ2 veterans.

In 2018, the Canadian Armed Forces’ 2018 Positive Space initiative, part of its diversity strategy, was launched to “promote a safe and inclusive work environment for all, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

But it was a different story for older veterans. In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized for the federal government’s campaign from the 1950s to the 1990s, known as the gay purge, against civil servants and members of the CAF and RCMP who were, or were suspected of being, gay. Thousands were fired, discharged or intimidated into resigning.

And the discrimination did not end with their military careers. Rainbow Veterans would like improvements in “sensitivity, awareness and respect when providing services to LGBTQ2+ veterans [who are] often uniquely vulnerable and underserved,” said Potts. They need access to services and health care “that recognize and respect them fully as their authentic selves.”

The 2019 federal budget invested $20 million to support LGBTQ2 organizations.

VAC also funds the Servicewomen Salute Portal for Resources and Research at Queen’s University.

Veterans with stories to share or organizations that would like to get involved can contact the office online at vac.womenlgbtq2veterans-femmeslgbtq2veterans.acc@canada.ca.

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