Orde Morton was a Canadian diplomat in 1969 when he was told that he would not be promoted because he was gay. Credit Aaron Vincent Elkaim for The New York Times

OTTAWA — Simon Thwaites was a master seaman analyzing radio signals and surveillance in a secret branch of Canada’s Navy in the 1980s when he was summoned by investigative officers. Strapped to a lie detector in an interrogation room, he was asked by two officers if medical records showing that he had contracted H.I.V. meant that he was gay.

Mr. Thwaites confirmed that this was the case, and not long afterward his security clearance was revoked and he was assigned to work as a janitor. Eventually Mr. Thwaites was forced out of the military on a medical release without benefits, lost his house and filed for bankruptcy.

“We were treated like something was wrong with us, but none of us did nothing wrong,” Mr. Thwaites said in a telephone interview from his home in Truro, Nova Scotia. “We did our jobs and we did our jobs well. It kind of undermines your sense of self.”

Now, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to formally apologize to Mr. Thwaites and thousands of other members of the military, the public service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who faced discrimination, lost their jobs and, in some cases, were imprisoned because of their sexual orientation. Some of the victims are believed to have killed themselves after their careers were ruined.

The apology, which will take place next Tuesday in the House of Commons, is another step in a review the prime minister began last year into how to acknowledge the harm bought by what is sometimes called the “gay purge.”

Working on the theory that gays and lesbians were vulnerable to blackmail by the Soviet Union, a special unit of the Mounties began its efforts to remove them from the public service in the late 1950s. The program continued in the military up until 1992; Mr. Thwaites’s reassignment as a janitor came in 1986.

The Mounties and military police conducted extensive surveillance of gay bars in several cities and used threats to extract the names of gays and lesbians. During the early 1960s, the national police force commissioned a psychologist to secretly build a “fruit machine,” a failed attempt at a homosexuality detector.

There is not a single known case of the Soviet Union or any other country having blackmailed a member of a sexual minority into turning over Canadian government secrets.

Because the military in particular has blocked access to some reports on the investigations, citing national security, it is unclear how many people came under investigation and how many lost their jobs or security clearances, or were demoted. Several groups place the figure at about 9,000.

Mr. Thwaites, 55, has been invited by the government to watch the apology from the gallery in the House of Commons in Ottawa. But the limited income provided by a disability pension means that he will be viewing on television at home in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Twaithes said he will be listening carefully to determine if the apology is “acceptable.” He said, “It’s possible that it might not cover a lot of bases.”

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, center, at the Vancouver Pride Parade with his family in July. Credit Ben Nelms/Reuters

Mr. Trudeau has also promised to introduce legislation by the end of December that will expunge the criminal records of people who were convicted of engaging in homosexual acts.

Mr. Trudeau’s father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, acting first as justice minister and then prime minister, repealed laws against homosexuality in 1969, legislation he introduced by saying: “I think the view we take here is that there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”

It is not clear if next week’s apology will also come with financial compensation for surviving victims, some of whom, including Mr. Thwaites, have joined a class-action lawsuit against the government. Lawyers for the plaintiffs in those cases met with their government counterparts on Monday to see if an agreement could be reached before Mr. Trudeau apologizes.

After the meeting, R. Douglas Elliott, the lead lawyer in the lawsuit, said two issues, which he declined to identify, remained outstanding. “I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to deliver both next week,” he said. “It was a difficult day of negotiations today. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

Cameron Ahmad, Mr. Trudeau’s spokesman, said the government was working toward resolving the lawsuit. “The apology, quite simply, is just one step,” Mr. Ahmad said.

Most of the surviving victims are from the military or the Mounted Police, according to Gary Kinsman, a retired professor of sociology at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. He is the co-author, with Patrizia Gentile, of “The Canadian War on Queers” and a member of the We Demand an Apology Network, a group that has been pushing for the action Mr. Trudeau is now taking.

But Professor Kinsman said the police action had a profound effect at one point on several branches of the public service, particularly Canada’s foreign ministry.

Based on his research, he links the start of the crackdown to a 1958 episode involving a clerk, who was gay, in the Canadian embassy in Moscow. The Canadian ambassador sent him home as a potential security threat. The government’s concerns increased, he said, after a Canadian sailor, who was also gay, was murdered.

“The United States security establishment was strongly encouraging of this campaign,” Professor Kinsman said.

Among the diplomats who were caught up in it was Orde Morton, who joined the foreign affairs department in 1964, was posted to Brazil and then led a review of Canada’s policies in Latin America ordered by the elder Mr. Trudeau.

He had anticipated being sent to another overseas post. But in 1969, after the laws against homosexuality had been repealed, he was summoned to a meeting with members of an internal security group. Mr. Morton was told that because he was gay, he was a security risk and would never be promoted.

Rather than serve out his time in a meaningless job, he quit.

Mr. Morton remade his life, attending doctoral studies at Oxford on a government grant, becoming an academic and, later, a writer. But he is participating in the lawsuit and says the government owes everyone caught up in the purge an apology.

“It doesn’t mean a great deal to me as a person,” he said from his home in Toronto. “But I think it’s a very great thing to acknowledge that this happened. Letting people see that gay and other people are just like anybody else is important.”

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Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/21/world/canada/gays-trudeau-apology.html