Since this is now in the media I thought it best if I make public the reasons why I could not sign the contract and confidentiality agreement to be on the Advisory Council to the government for the apology to LGBTQ2S+ people. Since i wrote this letter there may have been changes to the contract and confidentiality agreements and an hour long meeting of the We Demand an Apology Network and the Advisory Council and Secretariat did take place on Sept. 19, 2017.
July 19, 2017
This has been a very difficult decision to make but I cannot in good conscience sign the contract and the confidentiality agreement for the Advisory Council. I would very much like to have been able to participate on this council to try to ensure that the needs and concerns of those most affected by the national security purge campaigns are addressed; to represent the concerns of the We Demand an Apology Network; and to share my research on the Canadian War on Queers and the oppressive sexual and gender regulation of LGBTQ2 people (I will often use queer, trans and two spirit people from now on) and the experiences of sexual/gender colonization and racism directed at Indigenous people (including two-spirit people) both in the historical past and present.
But I cannot sign the contract and confidentiality agreement for the following reasons.
- My research on how national security has been mobilized against LGBTQ2 people and many others — throughout Canadian history and in the present — to deny people their rights and to expel them from the fabric of the ‘nation’ has led me to be very opposed to secrecy especially when it is justified in the name of national security. One of the distinctive features of the Canadian national security campaigns against queers has been its very high level of secrecy. To have this maintained during the process of the preparation for an apology continues these practices when they need to be ended and we need a more public and participatory process. In working with Patrizia Gentile on The Canadian War on Queers book we could often not access important information through the Access to Information Program (ATIP) since important information was redacted (even for the 1960s and 1970s) on the grounds of national security. While I certainly support and understand the need for confidentiality regarding people’s stories of abuse, harassment, violence, and repression which they do not want to be public I think the policies and practices of the Canadian government that organized the repression of queer, trans, two spirit and many other people needs to be made public and the veil of secrecy must be lifted. I would argue that a crucial feature of any apology needs to be making these documents and policies public. So I cannot participate in any process that would keep this information out of the public domain.
- Related to this it is my understanding that information relating to advice to the Prime Minister – and this would include proposals for an apology within the Advisory Council — would not be able to be talked/written about publicly even after the actual apology has been released. This would also cover someone who resigned from the council because they did not like the direction it was taking.
- While members of the Advisory Council will not be able to consult members of groups and networks they are part of to get their advice on proposals for the apology unless we get the express permission of the council apparently members will be directed by the Secretariat to ask questions of these same groups and networks. There is a real contradiction here. Members will be asked to collect information and views for the council and the Secretariat but we can not easily take back proposals to the groups we are part of to seek people’s input, guidance and direction. This sounds like a very one-sided process of communication and since people on the Advisory Council will no longer to accountable to the groups/networks they are part of they can no longer be seen as representatives of these groups but are instead accountable to the council and through it to the Secretariat. How can the representation of the needs and concerns of these groups be accomplished when members of the Advisory Council are not actually representing groups of people who experienced these injustices and cannot be accountable to them since they cannot speak to them about discussions on the Advisory Council without the express permission of the council?
- Related to this point it has always been my approach that those most directly affected by state policies need to be involved in any process for addressing oppression and injustice. Since it is my understanding that no people directly affected by the purge campaigns will be on the Advisory Council this also presents a significant problem for me. This may also be the case for other areas of the apology.
- While I understand that the focus of this Advisory Council is on the apology to exclude questions of redress and compensation from its mandate is in my view wrong. There is a logical and actual linkage between an official state apology and a redress process that cannot be entirely excluded from the work of this Advisory Council especially if part of its work as is stated is to assist in proposals for a broader reconciliation. It is also not clear to me whether the important question of the expungement of convictions for consensual queer/homosexual/lesbian/bisexual sexual practices both before and after the 1969 criminal code reform will be part of the mandate of the Advisory Council.
- If it is an Advisory Council it is not clear to me why the Special Advisor to the PM needs to chair the meetings. That the “Special Advisor will provide perspectives on behalf of the Government of Canada” seems to define this role as more being an advocate for the government on this advisory body. Perhaps it would be better chaired by someone with a bit more distance from the government to produce broader and more adequate suggestions for an apology. It was also never clear to me how decisions are to be made on the council.
- There is no explicit commitment to a nation to nation relation with Indigenous nations which is vital to me as a settler committed to decolonization. If anything this is denied in the language of “Canadians” that is used. Many Indigenous people who must be apologized to for the injustices done to them in the historical past and present do not consider themselves to be ‘Canadians’ but members of Indigenous nations and this must be respected and recognized.
- It has been made clear to me that any intellectual production I produce as a member of the Advisory Council would become the property of the government and I would lose control over it. As a scholar and researcher I cannot agree to this.
While I am quite willing to participate in the process leading up to an apology in any way that I can and that is useful I will not be able to participate in this Advisory Council for the reasons sketched above. I hope the work of the Advisory Council goes well.
I do make four specific requests to the Secretariat in relation to the Advisory Council.
1) That all members of the Advisory Council receive the We Demand an Apology submission to the federal government from June 2016 to take account of in their deliberations and discussions (this is attached in French and English)
2). That the We Demand An Apology Network points to be included in an apology be distributed to the Advisory Council at its first meeting (they are attached).
3) That a meeting be organized of the Advisory Council and Secretariat with members of the We Demand an Apology Network within the next month to discuss how the concerns of the Network can be integrated in an apology.
4). I also request that all of the key government documentation on the national security and military purge campaigns (other than specific individuals’ files and stories) be shared with both the Advisory Council and with the We Demand an Apology Network. People on the Advisory Council and those directly affected need to be able to see all the documentation that is relevant.
Thanks for your consideration.