HALIFAX – A former Canadian Forces member who says a series of aggressive investigations into her sexual orientation hounded her out of the military in the late 1980s is leading a class action lawsuit against Ottawa.
Alida Satalic’s lawsuit, submitted on Tuesday, spans the years 1969 to 1995 and applies to anyone who served in Atlantic Canada.
Lawyer John McKiggan says in the statement of claim, which has not been proven in court, that between the 1950s and 1990s the Canadian government engaged in a campaign to identify, harass and purge lesbians and gays from the Armed Forces.
It names Satalic as the representative plaintiff in the class action, saying the lesbian former postal clerk was mistreated and harassed while she was serving her country.
It says she was repeatedly interrogated by investigation units on the pretext of security screenings, and was asked about her sexual relationships in detail.
The claim says she dropped out of the military as a corporal in 1989 after learning she had no career prospects, re-enrolled in 1993 and then left again years later.
According to court documents, Satalic joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1981 at Canadian Forces Base Cornwallis in Deep Brook, N.S., and served at three bases.
It says after she told investigators about her sexual orientation, Satalic was given the option of staying in the military with no further training or promotions, or a release from service as “Not Advantageously Employable.”
She accepted the release.
The statement of claim says Satalic’s career, earnings and pension all suffered.
McKiggan said in an interview that she only returned to the military after its policy on investigating homosexuals ceased in 1993.
“Alida simply wanted to serve her country … She liked her job and she wanted to go back to serving her country. So when the policy of discrimination was changed she returned to a job she enjoyed,” he said.
An email from a Canadian Armed Forces official said DND is aware of the lawsuit and is reviewing the details to determine its next steps.
The lawsuit is claiming $100 million for the federal government’s breach of duty of care, fiduciary duty and violation of charter rights, plus a further $50 million in punitive damages.
In wider allegations, the lawsuit says a special security team created in 1946 harassed known homosexuals until the mid-1990s, long after Canada decriminalized homosexual sex in 1969.
McKiggan said he has asked for a hearing before the Federal Court in the new year to set deadlines for the next steps in the proceeding.