Exhibition tells the story: LGBT purge survivors

Photo by WO (Retired) Christine Potvin

Photo by WO (Retired) Christine Potvin

Litigation Implementation Team Communications Section
Chief Military Personnel ~

An art exhibition by Warrant Officer (Retired) Christine Potvin, recently displayed at the School of The Photographic Art: Ottawa, tells the stories of 14 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) survivors of the “LGBT Purge,” a dark period during which LGBTQ2 Canadians serving in the public service, the military and the RCMP were unfairly targeted by federal policies due to their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

“This is just the beginning, silence is not an option,” said WO (Ret’d) Potvin speaking about her exhibition that included photographs, audio files, and a book of stories of the CAF survivors of the “Purge”, which lasted from the mid-50s to the mid-90s.

“This is not about opening the floodgates or finger pointing,” she added. “Rather, we must educate anyone who takes the time to listen. One individual could potentially reach 10 others and so on and so forth.”

WO (Ret’d) Potvin is a CAF veteran. She served 29 years in the medical branch and was deployed, on three missions to Afghanistan. In 2017, she was released for medical reasons and enrolled in a full-time diploma program at the School of The Photographic Art: Ottawa.

Her exhibition was on display from April 26 to May 5. In addition to framed prints of photographs that WO (Ret’d) Potvin took of her subjects, visitors could explore the book of stories and listen to excerpts from the compelling, emotional and highly personal interviews she conducted with the survivors.

The book is being published with an official launch on Oct. 5. A copy of the book will be kept at the War Museum in Ottawa and the audio interviews in the National Archives of Canada as a historical reminder. WO (Ret’d) Potvin is also organizing a book tour across Canada, accompanied by Purge survivors, visiting high schools, colleges and universities.

RAdm Jennifer Bennett, Director General Litigation Implementation, was in attendance on the opening day of the exhibit and met with WO (Ret’d) Potvin and Purge survivors. The Litigation Implementation Team, under Chief Military Personnel, is currently working on implementing the CAF portion of the final settlement agreement of the “LGBT Purge” class action lawsuit. The settlement offers recognition and reconciliation measures, as well as financial compensation to eligible claimants.

“The exhibition was very powerful in conveying the injustice suffered by those survivors and each photo shows the incredible negative impact of their experience and the toll it has had on their lives. WO Potvin’s works are a reminder that no such discrimination should ever happen again,” said RAdm Bennett after visiting the exhibition.

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